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  • Writer's picturePatrick O'Neill

Lessons in intentionality from Ms. Claudette

It was a brisk autumn afternoon. We sat on the patio of Claudette’s Crown Hill bungalow to keep a safe distance. She brought out a space heater and offered Tom Hawkins, Director of Operations, and I blankets to keep us warm. Ms. Claudette carries herself in the manner of someone who has lived a long, fruitful life. When I first heard about NeighborLink’s long-time relationship with Claudette, a relationship that ended up saving the organization, I wanted to sit down with her and NeighborLink Indianapolis (NLI) co-founder Tom Hawkins to learn more about how this partnership began. It sounded to me like one of those once-in-a-lifetime lucky accidents, similar to finding a winning lottery ticket laying on the ground.

It became apparent that Claudette loves to share her story with those willing to listen. I was all ears and gladly gave her the lead in our conversation. She described her life prior to moving to Indianapolis. She lived in the historically Black neighborhood of Baptisttown in Evansville, IN where she drove a school bus for nearly forty years.

“You know, driving the bus, being surrounded by children every day, constantly seeing what it was like to be a child,” Claudette tells me. “I think that really allowed me to stay young at heart.”

After her husband passed away in 1991, Claudette wanted to be closer to her daughter. This guided her to the neighborhood of Crown Hill in Indianapolis. Crown Hill quickly became more than just a place to live. It became a place she could build community with others. Once in Indy, she wasted no time getting involved. Claudette joined her neighborhood association, Crown Hill Neighborhood Association, where she connected with others and had the opportunity to help shape the future of her newly found community. Claudette also became an active member at Tabernacle Presbyterian Church or “Tab” as she and her fellow congregants endearingly refer to it.

It was at Tab where NLI’s partnership with Claudette started years ago. Tom Hawkins attended a neighborhood meeting at the church to learn how NLI could better meet the needs of seniors in the Crown Hill neighborhood. Claudette, of course, was at that meeting. Neither Tom nor Claudette quite remember how they hit it off, but looking back, they are both glad they did.

Claudette would go on to play an instrumental part in NLI’s success. A few years ago NeighborLink Indianapolis lost access to the garage space where they stored the bulk of their equipment. Hearing about this, Claudette stepped up to offer her garage. In retrospect, Tom reckons if she hadn’t stepped up, the extra expense would have been too much for the young non-profit to encumber. Because of Claudette’s immense generosity, NLI was able to continue serving Indianapolis seniors. NeighborLink Indianapolis has returned the favor, in-part, by refurbishing her garage, painting her house and helping her maintain her yard over the last several years.*

In the course of our conversation, Claudette asked how I was involved in my community. My response shared my list of activities, including my volunteerism with NeighborLink Indianapolis to help tell the stories of great Indianapolis residents like herself. She smiled and encouraged me to recruit my friends.

“I tell young people, like yourself, all the time that you have to be active in your community,” said Claudette. “You have to give back and serve the folks you live around. At least that’s what I’ve always tried to do.”

I smiled and promised Claudette that I would do my best. It takes intentionally to make a difference, so I would be remiss if I didn’t keep my promise to Claudette and encourage you to take those intentional steps to get involved in your community.

The story of Claudette’s partnership with NLI was no coincidence. It wasn’t luck that brought Claudette and NeighborLink together like I initially thought it was. If you find a winning lottery ticket on the ground that really is luck. After all you had no intention of finding it, it just happened to be there. Luck is inherently coincidental. Rather, it was the series of intentional steps made by Claudette and Tom to help serve their community.

If you would like to be intentional in your service to the community and have an interest in joining Claudette, Tom and the whole NeighborLink Indianapolis team to serve seniors in the Indianapolis community, let us know! We would love to get you plugged in. If you would like to help us be ready for next year with funding for 20 houses at the start of 2021, consider donating to our Tools for 20 campaign.

*It should be noted, in no way is a homeowner under any obligation to give to NLI. We gladly do these home repairs at no cost to the senior homeowner. We would have helped Claudette even if she didn’t provide us with storage space.

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