If you ask Valerie Davis how she discovered community service, prepare for a swift and direct reply. “It discovered me! When I became homeless and I had to seek social services … I realized then, this is what I am here for. Since I got pulled up, I am trying to help pull others up, too.”
For 18 years Davis had a good job, two cars and a nice apartment. She knew nothing about community centers. That all changed when her depression caused her to lose her job, her home, her daughter and everything that meant stability.
The John H. Boner Community Center on Indianapolis’ near Eastside is where Davis began to not only set a new course for herself, but also to show others how to use their voices and their time to advocate for a better quality of life in Indianapolis neighborhoods.
Since making that pledge to herself, Davis has undertaken a variety of volunteer roles that fit her purpose. From serving as Bingo lady for Boner’s senior citizens and volunteering as a board member at the Boner Center and People’s Health Center to starting a Girl Scout troop for her neighborhood, Davis shows her Boner “family” that her commitment to uplifting the whole neighborhood is deep and wide.
But what spurred James Taylor, executive director of Boner, to nominate Davis for the 100 Heroes recognition was her work that celebrates and welcomes the diversity existing on the Eastside.
Taylor described how Davis helped bring under-represented businesses, prospective customers and clients together at meetings where they learn how they can contribute to the neighborhood’s quality of life.
In 2016, Davis encouraged the group to talk about the high number of ex-offenders returning to the community. The conversation led to hosting the first Reentry Expo of focused programming for returning neighbors and their families.
Attended by about 100 people, the expo earned a local award for collaboration from the Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center. That led to national recognition in 2017 with a Neighborhood of the Year award for the Indianapolis neighborhood.
“It all began with Valerie’s unwavering commitment to ensuring that the near Eastside intentionally creates spaces to celebrate and welcome the diversity that exists in our neighborhood and that neighbors feel included. Our neighborhood is a better place because of Valerie,” Taylor declared.