What is Auntie Na’s House?
Over the years, Auntie Na’s House has been many things. It has served as a food pantry, after-school program, clothes distribution hub, community garden, free childcare center, community meals space and temporary shelter. It is also a place where you can build relationships, organize for social justice, or just kick back and relax. More than anything, Auntie Na’s House is a place to call home. She’s got a large family, a big heart, and the doors are always open to those in need.
Six generations of Auntie Na’s family have lived in the house at 12028 Yellowstone St. and they have been working to uplift their community for decades. As a child, Auntie Na was raised by her grandparents, who began the community outreach by serving community meals, taking in kids after school, serving as a safe haven in the neighborhood. Over the years, Auntie Na and her family have helped raise dozens of children. Youth are nurtured and supported with tasty food, creative and artistic activities, and the distribution of warm clothing, school supplies and toys. Hot meals are served to the hungry and homeless, and the garden and pantry provide nutritious food for families in need. The house also operates as a safe space for women and children who need to leave dangerous situations. Auntie Na’s House is a place where everybody knows your name and you’re always glad you came. At Auntie Na’s House, love and affection are given to all who pass through the doorway.
This community outreach center provides a place of support and survival for those who are left unprotected by traditional government or non-profit social services. In their attempt to conform to the expectations of foundations and the criteria for government assistance, many institutions end up excluding and ignoring huge populations of marginalized people. Auntie Na simply tries to respond to the needs in her community, and maintains that “the only thing I turn down is my collar.” For her, this means supporting any and all who humble themselves to ask for her help. Her outreach program primarily supports low-income families of color, but also works with folks with developmental disabilities, those recovering from drug addiction, and those surviving domestic violence. In short, Auntie Na reaches out to all those who fall through the cracks of our broken system.
In the last decade, the community outreach center fell into some disrepair. As the neighborhood saw many houses abandoned and many stores boarded up, Auntie Na’s family felt the economic hardship of the city and the house was damaged by years of hard weather. Over the course of this past year, a strong relationship has been built between community members at Auntie Na’s House and outside volunteers, particularly those from Oberlin, Ohio. Dozens of volunteers have already begun transforming the space, creating a stronger infrastructure inside and outside the house. Over the summer, we established a small garden in the backyard, fixed a leaking roof, rebuilt the porch, and made a wheelchair ramp. This January, we were able to refurbish the basement, repaint the first-floor children’s room and bedroom, clean and reorganize the food pantry, and remodel the walls and ceiling on the second floor. The community center has come a long way, but we still have a lot of work ahead of us.
What’s the future for Auntie Na’s House?
We have big dreams for the future. In the coming months, we hope to complete a Reading Room, Music Area, and a Computer Lab inside the house. This growing season we want to tend a community garden in the backyard that is beautiful and fruitful. We also intend to purchase nearby vacant lots to expand our garden and better serve the community by providing lots of fresh and nutritious produce. In order to sustain a clean water supply, we plan to construct a rainwater catchment system on the roof. This summer, we have plans to transform a diesel car into vehicle that can run on recycled vegetable oil, so that we can rely less on unsustainable and expensive fossil fuels. Throughout all of this work, we want to continue youth education, and contribute towards family stability and empowerment.