What is a community? Is it a place where families live and raise children? Is it a place where neighbors respect and love one another? Is it a place where children learn and grow together? Is it a place where a neighbor cares enough to stop or intervene in your child's life if they see them doing wrong or even protect them from danger?
I ask these questions because, with the word community, there is a common love, respect and caring atmosphere that emanates among those who live there, regardless of economics or environment there will always be someone who will try to get other people involved in an idea of betterment wherever they may live.
When I was a kid growing up on Erie's east side, there was such a person who saw a need and provided an avenue to fulfill an empty void. Her name was Mrs. Beard. She bought two houses on East 23rd street between German Street and Holland street, both houses were abandon and next door to each other. As a kid back in either 1984 or 1985 I wondered what they were building when I saw that both houses were being connected.
Then one day lo and behold the community center sign went up. It was good to see that there was a light brought to the neighborhood, and that light was Mrs. Beard, an older black lady a grandmother type figure stepping up to the plate to mentor and give a place of refuge to the youth of the neighborhood, at a time when the crack era was just beginning in my city, Mrs. Beard tried to combat many social ills that children faced everyday with love and care. Mrs. Beard gave out free lunches, had tutors to help us kids with homework and allowed us to play video games like Atari. When Nintendo came out, you know that was a big hit. Mrs. Beard did all that she could do.
I spent a lot of time at the Community Center and Mrs. Beard was special to me. There was one day in particular when I saw her frustration. Kids were coming in and out; I believe that she suspected them to be drug dealers. She had an argument with one of them. She told them that they could not come back to the community center. Mrs. Beard kicked almost everyone out of the center except for about 4 of us. I asked Mrs. Beard if she was alright. She said “I am really getting tired of this and I wish that some young men would help me out in here. I cannot do this by myself. I've talked to many men but they don't come down here to help, and it is a shame".
I bared witness to Mrs. Beard’s good heart and good deeds; I myself was a beneficiary of them. Shortly after that day I knew that Mrs. Beard would close the Community Center and I could not blame her. I am sharing this story because. I know that Mrs. Beard was on the right path, but what if local churches around the neighborhood had lent a help