Central Hillside’s Neighborhood Hero

Every city needs a hero. In Duluth, people pursue selfless acts of kindness to better their neighborhood. The At Home in Duluth Collaborative has brought out heroes from all of Duluth’s neighborhoods. The Neighborhood Hero program began four years earlier. The Duluth Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) classifies a neighborhood hero as someone who “gets their neighbors feeling proud of their neighborhoods, kids excited about the future, businesses open and services delivered. They tap into the spirit of their neighborhood and channel it into real results that enrich peoples’ lives.”

Every year, the Duluth LISC and community club members choose one person from each neighborhood as a local hero.

Gene McKeever, the current Neighborhood Hero of Central Hillside, is honored to be a hero of a neighborhood she loves.

“Central Hillside is my home. I couldn’t live anywhere else,” McKeever said. “My kids are getting sick of me telling them that I’m a Neighborhood Hero, but I’m going to enjoy it until they take it away from me in October.”

McKeever has lived in Central Hillside for over 40 years. She currently lives off of Lake Avenue near the Central Hillside Community Center behind Cascade Park and considers herself the “watcher of Cascade Park.”

Along with her daily efforts to keep Central Hillside clean, safe and enjoyable for all, McKeever contributes to many of the renovation projects implemented to revitalize the neighborhood. McKeever is currently involved in the plan to renovate Sixth Avenue and make it more accessible. She is also fronting various beautification projects around the city that include the addition of murals, trash cans and benches.

Pamela Kramer, executive director of Duluth LISC, believes that McKeever’s community efforts have prompted others to get involved.

“She’s been a great asset to Central Hillside,” Kramer said.

McKeever has been influential with organizing throughout the 40 years she’s lived in Duluth. She has organized National Night Out celebrations, a neighborhood gathering that brings people in the community together to meet one another and socialize, and has advocated to bring Washington Studios Artists Cooperative to Central Hillside. She also has organized neighborhood spring cleanups, and has given Christmas lights to all her neighbors on Lake Avenue to light up the street.

The previous Central Hillside Neighborhood Hero Claudie Washington admires McKeever’s dedication to her neighborhood. He says that he and McKeever want “to always maximize the potential for people who live in this pristine area.”

Her current project is oriented around providing a communal garden that her neighbors can take vegetables, fruits, and herbs from without having to pay any fees.

“I really want to provide the community with something,” McKeever said.

If you want to nominate someone for their service to the community, Duluth LISC puts out a call for nominations in June. Nomination forms are available through NHS Duluth at 224 East 4th Street, Duluth, phone: 218-727-8604, or through SVCNDA at 331 N Central Avenue, Duluth, phone: 218-624-2317. The heroes are selected by Community Club leaders.

Have you ever been a Local Hero? Did you help choose the Local Hero in your area? Who do you think deserves the award, and what work have they done in your community? We’d love to hear your stories in the comment form below.

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