What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the words "public housing?" Is it vibrant resident parties, home-cooked meals, or comradery? Probably not, but at Tall Oaks Apartments
in Southeast Fort Wayne, that is the reality.
Tall Oaks Apartments are HUD-subsidized public housing units owned and operated by the Fort Wayne Housing Authority at 7300 Decatur Rd. Laura Moore has been its Property Manager for the past six years. During that time, she has built relationships with tenant leaders Sandra Black, Helen Pace, Kathy McCowan, and Cheryl Clawson.
Moore says these women are integral to the success of their building's community, and their contributions cannot be understated. They have volunteered their time to help their fellow tenants by providing home-cooked meals, organizing holiday activities and cookouts, and even picking up trash on the weekends.
Sandra, who also serves as the Resident Commissioner on the Board of Directors, says she is motivated to help because she wants to “make our community a better place.” Her hope in 2021 is that Tall Oaks continues to keep everyone safe during the pandemic, but is able to get back to its bingo gatherings, gardening, arts and crafts, exercise classes, and continue its holiday dinners.
Cheryl agrees, and says that this type of programming helps the residents keep their spirits up. She firmly believes in using something she enjoys to help others, which for her, is gardening. She takes care of the building's plants inside year-round, as well as its entryway planters in the warmer months.
Another volunteer, Kathy says, “I live, sleep, and relax here! My environment is important to me. I will do whatever I can to make my environment positive.”
For Kathy, the new limitations on gathering, touching, and socializing during COVID have been hard. As it becomes safer to spend time with others, she will be glad to see the building's usual programming come back and add new activities, like an open mic night and group outings to community events that are in the works.
Helen started helping out with these events, too, because she says that before they existed, residents kept complaining that there wasn’t anything to do. She also serves as one of the primary chefs for the building's delicious home-cooked holiday meals, which are a key part of the womens' service. Since COVID made gathering hazardous, these ladies have adapted and made sure their neighbors could get their home-cooked meals by taking pre-orders and delivering them in individual containers.
When asked about the impact these women have on the building, Moore says, “There are people in our building who might not be able to spend holidays with loved ones and might not have access to a homemade holiday meal otherwise. But the ladies in my building who continually volunteer to make these events happen, are the true superstars. Their actions make the entire building and its occupants a happier place. They continually volunteer without hesitation, with smiles on their faces, and it truly makes a difference in their neighbors’ lives. I can’t thank them enough, and I value their service to our community.”
Full disclosure: Laura Moore is the author's mom, and she used to work at Tall Oaks when she was employed with FWHA.