Hand Raisers and Game Changers on the South Side

When Ken and Allen moved into and founded the Ganthers Place neighborhood in 2003, the 30-block area was awash in crime, litter, rats, dilapidated housing and overgrown lots. But the two men saw potential and neighbors who cared, so they rolled up their sleeves and went to work. They began by picking up litter, getting to know their neighbors, forming a block watch and creating community gathering places.

While Ken and Allen were well equipped with energy and passion, their ambitious vision for Ganthers Place required resources they didn’t have. They began searching for community partners, which led them to the Neighborhood Partnership Grants program—a collaborative sponsorship of United Way of Central Ohio, The Columbus Foundation, the City of Columbus and PNC. The grants they received through the program over the years have helped them add a community vegetable garden, murals, and a musical stage for outdoor concerts, and host countless events that have instilled pride and brought neighbors together.

At times, their efforts elicited suspicion, fear and even retaliation. When a young boy from down the block TWICE stole the very first tree Allen planted, Allen confronted the youth. The boy’s mother said her son just wanted a tree to make his own yard and house look nice. Hearing that, Alan bought a second tree and helped the boy plant it at his house. Today, that young boy is a wonderful husband and father, as well as a proud homeowner in Ganthers Place.

Under the leadership of the two men, Ganthers Place has been transformed into a peaceful, picturesque oasis where crime is down, home prices are up, and engaged neighbors look out for one another. “We are community,” says Ken.

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