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The powerful impact of a pocket park


Posted on 4/13/2017

Community Baptist

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 forget.

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 inspiring place.

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:

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