Community love, compassion and committed leadership are helping transform North Flint

Community love, compassion and committed leadership are helping transform North Flint

Service to the community is something Jeanette Edwards, president of the Brownell-Holmes Neighborhood Association, takes seriously. 

“As long as the block club needs me to be president, I will be president,” she says.

Edwards created the association when she saw a need for more organization in her North Flint neighbor-hood. It’s 56 members strong, and a good number of them are active a lot of the time.

In September, Jeanette Edwards helped plant an honorary garden at the corner of Ruth and Saginaw Streets. The project, called “Love a Lot,” was put forth by the North Flint Action Council and honored Katherine Price, a former resident of Flint, for her involvement in the community. Photo courtesy

For 30 years Edwards has called the north side of Flint home. It’s a place where she does more than her fair share. She sits on the Safety and Welfare Committee of the North Flint Neighborhood Action Council as well as on four separate parent groups at her grandchildren’s schools and the Family Fast Program for Catholic Charities. She is also a member of the Refuse Temple Church of Flint, an apostolic congregation, and is very involved in Flint Neighborhoods United, the amalgam of neighborhood groups that meets monthly at the Woodside Church.

All of these efforts could not be more important to her.

“I love Flint,” she says. “It’s my home.”

Edwards got the idea for the association while visiting a friend’s neighborhood where she spotted some flowers on a neighbor’s porch. That piqued her curiosity and prompted her to dig a little deeper. She chatted with the neighbor who told her the neighborhood association had helped deliver the flowers and urged Edwards to start an association of her own.

This Brownell-Holmes Neighborhood Association member’s t-shirt says it all. North Flint residents are “unbreakable.” Photo by Danen Williams

Next thing Edwards knew she was going door-to-door, passing out flyers in the neighborhood and then she was holding her first meeting.

“At our first gathering, we had four people,” she recalls, “but the next time we had people coming from all over. It got more talked about – the children being safe. We have two schools in our neighborhood so it’s important.”

Brownell K-2 STEM Academy and the Holmes STEM Academy are close by. The association holds its meetings at Holmes once a month, on the second Thursday in the evenings. “Between 30 and 35 people come each time,” says Edwards, who leads by example.

To help neighbors in need she established tool shed in her backyard.

“It’s for everyone to use and rent from. We have tools of all kinds in the shed,” she says, adding that supplying it came about through a Habitat for Humanity grant. “Hopefully we’ll receive another so we can keep stocking and supplying the neighbors. We have a lot of senior citizens who need things.”

Neighbors pay $5 and get a lawn mower, a snow blower or a weed whacker.

Jeanette Edwards, far right, stands with Mayor Karen Weaver, Councilman Eric Mays, and two members of the Brownell-Holmes Neighborhood Association who were recipients of awards this past summer from The City of Flint for most attractive yards. Photo courtesy Brownell-Holmes Neighborhood Association

The mother of three sons, nine grandsons, and one great-granddaughter, Edwards is no stranger to hard work. At one point in her career she was a para-professional in learning support at Brownell and later worked as a caretaker at both a group home for mentally challenged adults and in private care.

In April, she started work on a mini library located in a lot that sits around the corner from her house. Kids read to seniors regularly while sitting on benches Edwards obtained through a Habitat for Humanity grant. In June, the Mary McLeod Bethune Library officially opened at the corner of Janice Drive and Oxley Drive across from the Holmes STEM Academy.

The lot is leased from the Genesee County Land Bank and one of the neighborhood residents, a retired veteran, donated the building. Flint’s Leadership Now, a service of the Flint and Genesee Chamber of Commerce, helped Edwards write the grant and see it through.

The library opened in August. The grand opening was attended by residents, members of the planning commission, clergy, First Ward Councilman Eric Mays and Vince Slocum, neighborhood services director at Genesee County Habitat for Humanity.

Brownell-Holmes Neighborhood Association Block Club Founder and President Jeanette Edwards is helping to create positive change in her north side neighborhood. Photo Danen Williams

“We are always in need of books. It’s an ongoing process,” says Edwards. “People just come and drop off. They’ll call me or take them to the school. Both schools have also donated books.

“I want kids reading scores to go up. I want them to come over and read. I want our neighborhood to be safe and secure,” she says.

That’s leadership driven by a passion to help others and make a difference.


Editor’s Note: To learn more about Brownell-Holmes Neighborhood Association visit their facebook page. 





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