Written by: Greg Fennig, Vice President of Public Affairs
It all started back in 1993 on an airplane to Washington
D.C. Steve Goldsmith (then Mayor of Indy)
was on the same flight and asked if Keep Indianapolis Beautiful (KIB) would take on the development and
implementation of a paint-up-clean-up-fix-up initiative aimed at improving neighborhoods. After some investigation, it was an obvious perfect fit with
where we were going as an organization. And with that came Project 180°/IPL
Revive A Neighborhood (now known as IPL Project GreenSpace). Community Baptist
was our first signature project and what a project it was.
Flash back to a small church on West Roache Street with
vacant lots across the street; lots where drug dealers would come to fight their
dogs leaving the losing dog behind. Pastor
Ward came to KIB wanting to take back his neighborhood starting with those
vacant lots. With the help of many
partners, a plan for a "pocket park" was born.
In planning for the event, I can remember driving down Roach Street. People would come out of their houses to see
who I was, because they knew the van I was driving didn’t belong there. After a ton of planning, outstanding
commitment from Community Baptist and great support from partners, a pocket
park was born.
The park received a lot of attention. Media would interview Pastor Ward while drug dealers would confront him asking why he would do such a thing. His response was always, "I love you. I don’t
want you to die, and I want to take back my neighborhood."
I was also privileged to be on the Keep
America Beautiful Board at the time and hosted a board meeting here in
Indianapolis. The board was composed of
CEOs and other senior leaders from some of the largest and most respected
companies in America. We brought them to
see Community Baptist’s pocket park and the impact it had on the
neighborhood. While they were most impressed
with the park, they were also impressed by the fabulous breakfast church
members provided for them in the basement of the church. I’m sure it was an experience they will never
As the years went on, Community Baptist used this project as
a catalyst to do more and more in their neighborhood. Later, when I would drive down the street in
the same van, people would come out and wave proudly welcoming me to their
So, I left KIB in 2003 after 10 years as President and joined Indianapolis Power & Light Company (IPL) as Vice President of Public Affairs.
Now, more than 20 years later, I find myself back at Community Baptist
sprucing up their pocket park. This time, I am also paying honor to Gino, a great guy from IPL. Gino worked for IPL when we originally did
the park and was a strong supporter of Community Baptist. Unfortunately, Gino lost his life, but his
impact lives on, and we celebrate what he did to make this a great place.
View photos from our revitalization day below: