Resources for Residents and Communities (RRC)
Georgia Burrell is known affectionately as the unofficial “Mayor” of Reynoldstown, a community in east Atlanta where she has lived for more than 52 years. Through her 20-year service on the Board of the Reynoldstown Civic Improvement League, she worked tirelessly to bring public transportation options to her neighborhood. Burrell also played a critical role in preserving the Lang Carson Community Center, which has served as NeighborWorks America affiliate RRC’s headquarters for over 23 years. When asked what inspired her work Burrell said: “I really enjoy volunteering and being around people. I grew up in this community and it offered me so much as a child, and now there are a lot of senior citizens and young people that need my help. I had those role models in my life and I want to be that inspiration for others.”
Urban Edge of Boston
Sharon Curry believes that “the way to create a healthy environment for every child to grow up in is to do for your neighbors’ children as you would do for your own.” One of the projects she championed was to start a local branch of the Boston Red Sox baseball Rookie League, and one of the proudest moments of her life came when that team won the local championship. When asked how she inspires others to get involved, Curry said simply “I listen. I tell folks it’s important to listen, and we just don’t listen enough, but when we listen the answer is right there. It takes very little for a person to be a leader; it’s just like a tiny mustard seed that can grow into something big.”
Bob Fontaine, former Cleveland Ohio Man of the Year, says, “I can’t be in any community unless I’m active; there is a need everywhere.” He has been especially motivated to work with the young people of the community whom he recognizes as the future leaders. He formed an active Teen Council and also became president of the Pheasant Run Resident Council in Columbus, Ohio. Fontaine’s latest project with the young people is to start a basketball league. Using his infectious enthusiasm, he persuaded a former professional basketball player to help him sign up dozens of boys and girls to take part in the league. Fontaine says, “Young people WANT to latch onto something, so we need to give them something positive to latch onto. We can be a role model for them and let them know they can be successful.”
Affordable Housing Alliance
Eatontown, New Jersey
Alice Goggins has lived and volunteered in her community and her home in the Grandview Apartment complex in Keansburg, NJ for over 40 years, so when the owners announced in 1995 that they were planning to sell the complex, Goggins took action. She formed an ad hoc tenants’ association that persuaded the owners to sell the property to a nonprofit agency resulting in a strong, sustained community at Grandview. Throughout, Goggins has been a motivator and a leader in the growth and expansion of this vibrant community. She has impacted the lives of generations of residents and inspired countless individuals to actively participate in their communities and to stand up for what they believe.
Little Dixie Community Action
Herb Matlock has been active in community and public service for more than 65 years. After working in the military and the Federal Aviation Administration, Matlock returned to his hometown and focused on local efforts. Knowing that his town would never be able to attract investment and grow without a public sewer system, he ran for public office, won, and eventually worked with Oklahoma’s governor to bring sewer and water upgrades to the community. Since then, the town’s population has doubled. Matlock’s passion for helping others is chronicled in his book, “Turning the Lights on in Southeast Oklahoma,” which won a national prize for history in 2011. Matlock’s advice for others interested in community engagement is, “Make sure you do it from your heart, make sure you are committed and are doing it because you have a passion to help people.”
NeighborWorks Great Falls
Great Falls, Montana
Terry Miller has been a volunteer in Black Eagle, Montana for more than 30 years and she has played a leadership role in several organizations, such as the Civic Club and the Fire Department Auxiliary. Her efforts, such as developing a city-wide Neighborhood Watch program and initiating the annual spring community clean-up, have helped make Black Eagle a community of choice. Miller’s advice to others interested in volunteering was, “Volunteerism is very fulfilling. Get involved in things you feel passionate about and things that make a difference in your community and your neighborhood.”
Community Housing Works of San Diego
San Diego, California
Six years ago, Rosa Peñaflor volunteered with the Crown Heights Neighborhood Group and today, she’s the president. Each month, Peñaflor brings together area residents, local police and staff from nonprofits like NeighborWorks affiliate Community Housing Works to discuss community concerns and develop collaborative solutions. This approach proved vital in reversing a city plan to remove the neighborhood school bus. Instead of losing the bus, Peñaflor and her constituents talked the local school district resulting into allowing residents to get a subsidized bus fee if they agreed to do monthly community cleanups. When asked to share a word of advice, Peñaflor said, “You will find many obstacles when you have an agenda you want to get done, but keep fighting for your goal and find your leadership strength, Don’t ever let the problems and roadblocks divert you from your goal."