Every year, Grace Community Church in Noblesville, Indiana shuts its doors, cancels its services and sends its congregation out to do service projects all over the city.  This year, World Next Door sent a team of volunteer journalists from Grace’s congregation to tell some of the stories from the weekend.

This is one of those stories.

To read all of the Weekend of Service articles, click here.

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Small Things

Written by Jane VanOsdol

Photos by Jack L’Heureux

“For who has despised the day of small things?”
Zechariah 5:10

A crocus bulb is not a very big thing. It measures about an inch across. Four of them easily fit into the palm of your hand. Yet within it lies a germ of life determined enough to push upward through March snows at the first hint of spring. On the morning of October 17, five groups of people gathered around 5,000 crocus bulbs to help beautify the Windsor Park community on Indianapolis’s south side. But the story goes much deeper than outward beauty. It’s really about a neighborhood’s work and struggle to find community in a changing society.

Anja Saak planting crocus bulbs.

Anja Saak planting crocus bulbs.

About five years ago Anja Saak settled in the Windsor Park area with her family. Originally from the Netherlands, she was happy in her new neighborhood, but could see some negative things that needed changing. Rather than “fighting bad things,” she and two friends wanted to do something “tangibly good” to help the neighborhood. Anja had wonderful memories of the prolific flowers in her homeland and was homesick, so she hit upon the idea of planting crocuses. They did. And the idea snowballed from there.

Fast forward to 2007 and 2009 and enter Keep Indianapolis Beautiful (KIB). Windsor Park neighborhood received grants from KIB to plant 5,000 crocus bulbs. Anja happily took the bulbs, but with them came so much more. “Now what I didn’t expect was that whole aspect of how it would bond the community together,” says Anja. “It’s been a revelation really. It’s not just the springtime bang of the flowers blooming. But also just the event itself of getting together in the fall to plant. It’s fun. It’s magic!” she said. No matter the weather, neighbors come out of their houses to plant and talk. Everyone brings food.

Actually, this is exactly the result that KIB hopes for. Tammy Stevens of KIB says that building community is one of their main goals. “To get neighbors out, to meet each other, to work together toward a common cause  … and any type of beautification, whether its tree planting, planting flowers, helps reduce crime, because it shows that people are paying attention, that people have pride in their community” she said.

Duvall Work Release Center residents hard at work...

Duvall Work Release Center residents hard at work...

It became apparent on Saturday morning as the Grace group arrived to help with the planting that other groups were also volunteering time to help this neighborhood.

Several students from IUPUI were on hand to help with the planting after seeing the project on KIB’s online project calendar.

Residents of the Duvall Work Release Center arrived at 9 a.m. and planted many of the bulbs before the Grace team even arrived. Larry Keller, Ladre Jackson and Ray Peoples were happy to be able to help the neighborhood.   “We try to keep the neighborhood as clean as possible every weekend,” says Larry. “They appreciate us coming out and helping them.”

While many of the Windsor Park residents initially opposed the building of the work release center in their neighborhood (and still do), it is heartwarming to see the camaraderie that now exists between the two groups. Frank Watson, Windsor Park resident, was part of the community group that opposed the establishment of a work release center at Duvall.

Frank Watson.

Frank Watson.

Frank, however, was hired to be the first chief of security for the center. When he left that position, they hired him to help with transportation Monday through Friday. On weekends he is a neighbor volunteer at the center and supervises the work. “The guys are volunteers, I’m a volunteer; we’re out here because we want to be out here,” Frank said. Somewhere along the way, Frank and other Windsor Park residents realized they needed to shift focus from the center as an institution to the people in the center, who were, like it or not, a part of their community.

Chuck Coleman, president of the Windsor Park Neighborhood Association explains further. “It’s here. It’s not going away. Accept it and work with it,” he said. “The guys are human beings. They’ll do better on the outside if people show that they care about them.” The neighborhood supports the men by collecting clothes and toiletry items at a New Year’s Eve party, and the Duvall residents take pride in helping maintain the community.

Windsor Park.  Now a place of community.

Windsor Park. Now a place of community.


What was palpable to the Grace crew Saturday morning was the love and pride of community and the shared desire to improve upon this that the Windsor Park residents share; this feeling, like a magnet, attracted all of us outsiders to it. British transplant and Windsor Park resident for the past 25 years Martin Morris summed it up: “This is where we want to be. We don’t want to leave … but, we’ve got to do something to make it better,” he said.

As the Grace crew worked to plant bulbs and pick up trash, the residents fed us, made us laugh with their wit and without knowing it, inspired us to rethink our own definitions of community, especially as we watched their concern for Anja, who is now battling cancer.

We were left to ponder Martin’s words, “Things that used to be natural in neighborhoods have become unnatural. Anything that gets strangers to come together and learn each others’ names is a good thing.”

Five thousand crocus bulbs did exactly that.

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About the Author: Every year, Grace Community Church in Noblesville, Indiana shuts its doors, cancels its services and sends its congregation out to do service projects all over the city. This team of volunteer journalists from Grace’s congregation told some of the stories from the weekend.

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Comments

  1. Jim.M said... 

    Reply

    November 13th, 2010 at 11:04 pm  

    Would love to see this in the spring!

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