Saturday, November 18, 2006

Carl Drummer's Fleecing Of Center Township

Now that the election is over, someone in the mainstream media decides to do an expose on Center Township Trustee Carl Drummer's fleecing of the township. The Indianapolis Business Journal's Tom Murphy has a prescient investigative piece this week, which blows the lid on the sizeable real estate portfolio Drummer has amassed at taxpayer's expense and his misuse of township property for what appears to be personal use. Murphy wonders why Drummer has entangled the township in so many real estate deals when his statutory duty is helping the needy. Murphy writes:

Drummer said his main focus is helping township residents in need, as spelled out in state trustee guidelines—whether that means passing out food vouchers or paying for funerals when family members can’t. But he also believes in revitalizing neighborhoods and fostering economic development.

That broader approach—plus a habit of parking race cars and friends’ vehicles in a township owned garage—raises questions among those who say the trustee’s office could do more for the 24 percent of township residents who live in poverty.

“I’m just not convinced that the rewards of revitalizing the community are worth what we’re spending,” [Center Township Advisory Board member Jon] Elrod said. “I just think it could be better used on other things.”

Nevertheless, Drummer makes no apologies. His office has held on to many of the parcels for years, he said, because it wants to find the right use for them. “We at Center Township have always thought outside the box,” he said. “We believe that government should run like a business.”

Murphy identifies at least a dozen properties the trustee's office owns worth in excess of $10 million, including the Center Township Healthplex (formerly Fall Creek YMCA) near IUPUI, Trustee's office at 863 Massachusetts Avenue, a vacant Career Development Institute building at 875 Massachusetts Avenue, the Julia Carson Government Center at 300 E. Fall Creek Parkway, 6 vacant lots in the Fall Creek area, 6 parking lots and one rental home on which $150 a month rent is paid.

Murphy notes that Drummer inherited most of the real estate portfolio from Julia Carson for whom he worked as deputy trustee prior to being chosen as her replacement in 1996 following her election to Congress. Drummer's belief that government should "run like a business" means less relief for the needy. While Center Township is the state's largest township with a population of 167,000 and nearly a quarter of those residents live below the poverty level, it provides less support for the needy than smaller urban townships. Gary's Calumet Township ranks 5th behind Center Township in population with a similar-sized needy population, but it spent $6 million in assistance to the needy compared to Center Township's $2 million. Drummer, meanwhile, rates as the highest paid trustee in Indiana at $90,000. Murphy omits, however, the take-home car Drummer gets courtesy of the taxpayers. His office spends $2.35 for every dollar of assistance it delivers according to Murphy--the highest in the state based on a study performed by the Chamber of Commerce.

Center Township's Assessor Jim Maley (D) tells Murphy he is "aghast" at the size of Drummer's portfolio. "Government entities ought not to acquire any more properties than they need to perform the functions of their office," Maley tells Murphy. Other township trustees and government officials echoed Maley's concerns according to Murphy. Murphy reports that Drummer is planning to increase the township's budget by 8% next year, or $1.1 million to $14.7 million.

What I found particularly shocking was Murphy's revelation that Center Township is sitting on $11.1 million in the bank. "That's 'an extraordinarily high balance' for an entity that collects only $5 million in taxes a year, said Dan Jones, assistant budget director at the state agency, which approves tax rates." Hey, if you don't need all the money you are collecting from us in taxes, then let's give it back to the taxpayers. No, Drummer amasses a $20 million fortune for the township in real estate and bank deposits. That makes a lot of sense.

And what about all that free parking and storage for Drummer's expensive car collection which Jocelyn Tandy has been complaining about in comments on this blog for months now. Murphy fills us in on the details. He writes about another matter Carl Brizzi's office needs to investigate while its investigating Drummer's shady dealings with the owners of the illegally constructed 300 East Bar in the Julia Carson Government Center:

There’s a parking lot out back, but Drummer lets friends and employees keep vehicles in an empty garage at the rear of the Massachusetts Avenue building, a habit that strikes some as improper. To the trustee, it’s a chance to do a favor, mostly for workers who use company cars. However, two ex-employees saw more than commuter cars stored there.

Former security guard Norman Matthews remembers seeing some sort of race cars in the garage before he left in 2003. He didn’t know who owned them. Darlene Taylor, an employment specialist who also left in 2003, saw car trailers parked there as well. “These ain’t no cheap trailers, either,” she said. “I’m talking way-up-in-themoney trailers. It’s something one of them race car drivers use.”

Consider Drummer a car buff. He owns race cars and serves as vice president of the United Council of Corvette Clubs, an organization of black Corvette owners. In fact, he lists his Center Township e-mail on the club’s Web site as a contact point. But the trustee said he never parked trailers in that garage. Race cars are different. “I’m not going to tell you that they’ve never been in there,” he said. “They have not been stored in there.” Stored, he said, means kept for “a period of time” or longer than a couple of days.

The same can’t be said of other cars. Three tarp-covered vehicles sat parked against a garage wall one recent morning, across from a shiny Ford pickup and a couple other cars. Drummer said the pickup belonged to John Patterson, a Small Claims Court clerk who used to park a Corvette there.

A friend of Drummer’s has stored another car in the garage for eight months. “He wanted to get it out of his back yard,” Drummer said. “It’s an old Volkswagen that he was restoring. You know, the winter was hitting, he wanted to get it out of his back yard.” Drummer wouldn’t let a reporter look under the tarps during a tour, but he said none of the vehicles was his.

The free parking was news to Elrod. “I don’t think it’s appropriate for the trustee’s office to use facilities for friends and acquaintances,” he said. Drummer said the parking doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime because the otherwise empty garage would be lit for security, anyway. “It’s dry storage space,” he said. “The building is set to be, you know, hopefully torn down and something great built on it, so why not?”

But to Indiana Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Brinegar, the arrangement smacks of impropriety. “In the grand scheme of things, is it a big deal?” he said. “Probably, no. But why is that property being taken off the tax rolls and being used to provide storage space for him and his friends … in a way that’s not available to taxpayers in general?”

Murphy also asks why a township is involved in running a health club, which isn't operating as a recreational center for neighborhood kids as some had originally thought it would be. And what about the township property which is leased to private entities, such as Key Bank at the Julia Carson Government Center. For-profit entities are supposed to pay property taxes on their leased premises, even if the property is owned by the government. Nobody bothered assessing any taxes on Key Bank for its space in the Julia Carson Government Center until last year according to Murphy. They've only been in the building for about a decade now. Murphy briefly mentions the controversial 300 East bar, but he doesn't discuss any details.

Murphy points out that Mayor Bart Peterson's (D) original government consolidation plan called for the elimination of all but two township trustee's office in Marion County, "but that provision was dropped during discussions with legislators in 2005." I think it's time for Mayor Peterson to revisit that issue if he's really serious about improving government efficiency in Marion County. This Center Township Trustee's office is nothing more than a playground for Carl Drummer and his buddies to do what they do best: help themselves out with our taxpayer's money.

The IBJ and Tom Murphy should be applauded for this in-depth report on Drummer's shenanigans in the Center Township Trustee's office. It is a real shame, however, that the editors of IBJ held off publishing this story until after the election--just like the way the media avoided discussing Julia Carson's serious health problems until after the election--when it can no longer impact the outcome by informing voters.


indyernie said...

Just one more of Carson's cronies thumbing their nose at the citizens of Center Township

Wilson46201 said...

Townships were created by the 1851 Indiana Constitution to operate the new free public schools (that function was rescinded in 1959). Over the years a variety of responsibilities were devolved upon them including "poor relief", tax assessment, small claims court administration, care of abandoned cemeteries, taxing dogs, eradication of tumbleweed, etc. Townships may not pass ordinances binding upon all residents but they may perform other unspecified activities amenable to their voters and taxpayers. Townships are the most basic local government unit!

Taxpayers are represented in Marion County townships by a 7-person elected Township Board. (It's a 3-person Board elsewhere in Indiana.) The Board's function is to approve the annual budget and the levying of taxes to support it. This Board used to be called the "Township Advisory Board" but that nomenclature was struck back in the 1980s.

In the 1970s and 1980s Center Township was horribly mismanaged and was facing imminent bankruptcy and state take-over. It was operating on borrowed funds! In this crisis, Julia Carson was elected Trustee and turned the place around for the better. By the time she was elected to Congress in 1996, the township was in very solid financial shape.

Center Township is regularly audited by the State Board of Accounts with no significant problems. Expenditures are controlled by a popularly-elected bipartisan Board. The Trustee was just re-elected by a 3-to-1 majority despite the GOP candidate raising many of the issues discussed here. The local voters have spoken again in their most recent "accountability moment". They have no problem with the way Center
Township is operating and resent "outsiders" trying stir up stuff needlessly!

Gary R. Welsh said...

Wilson said, "They have no problem with the way Center Township is operating and resent "outsiders" trying stir up stuff needlessly!

Sorry, Wilson, last time I checked I was still a taxpaying citizen of Center Township. Furthermore, the IBJ is headquartered in Center Township and has every right to scrutinize Center Township. This is serious stuff. It involves illegalities, misappropriation of taxpayer dollars and misplaced priorities. Carl Drummer doesn't give a damn about the needy people of Center Township; he only cares about feathering his own nest and those of this friends. The vast majority of the people who voted in last week's election knew none of the township candidates. It's time to do away with this relic of the past that has long outlived its usefulness. It is nothing but a patronage cesspool for self-dealing politicians like Drummer.

Wilson46201 said...

... so I gather AI voted against Carl? It was duly counted.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Yes, I was one of the 25% of the voters who was actually informed before I cast my ballot in that race.

Anonymous said...

The IBJ really outshined the Star on this piece. You know, AI, Carl befriended Rishawn Biddle recently to help keep these kinds of stories off the Star's pages.

Anonymous said...

Carl is running the Trustees office the same way Julia Carson ran it--incompetently and exploitively.

They both have bragged about not giving out much aid...making people bootstrap themselves. That's why we see homeless people and families downtown sleeping on the streets.

Instead of poor relief, they've been keeping the money in the account and buying buildings and other resources, i.e. souped up, fully equipped cop looking cars, vets and other race cars. They use the property and resources for themselves.

Hey, lets wakeup and get these folks out of public offices...

Carl Drummer also allowed the recently formed law firm of Coleman Graham and Stephens to have space, for free, courtesy of Ice Miller partners Lacy Johnson. Lacy was so tired of having to allow other women and minority firms the right to participcate in minority contracting, that he created his own firm to "funnel" a portion of the legal fees back to himself.

Fortunately, the blog media has smoked them out and the heat got hot, so they moved out recently.

Yes, they were going to have a good time indeed! Lacy would have his club in the Julia Carson building, his Law Firm in the Julia Carson Building and one foot on Julia Carson's neck...AND the other on the Mayors neck.

LPerdue said...

So...does Jon Elrod never attend the meetings of the Center Township Trustee Board of Directors? Do any of the board members? Sounds like they've got their fingers in the till as well!

Anonymous said...

This information was rumored but not substantiated before the election.

Wilson, there is no explanation you can offer that makes this go away. ANd your clever rewriting of history is comical.

And it's only the tip of the iceberg. Literally.

As for RiShawn, I don't think he can be bought. But obviously he can be easily distracted. And I know for a fact, that every time the IBJ scoops the Star, they get their rear ends chewed.

Which is hilarious. A locally-owned weekly paper with less than a fifth of the circulation, regularly hands The Star its reportorial lunch.

This morning, for instance, we read that Matt Tulley actually drove to S. Bend to interview the Speaker-designate.

We learn little of tough questions asked, and more about the trip and lunch.

Now, on to the real stuff:

The personal auto storage is theft by conversion. The funnel of dollars to Lacy's firm is fraud, on the part of Lacy and Carl.

Where is our newly-re-elected prosecutor?

Oh yeah--he might want to examine the rental records, leases, etc. of the Carson Center tenants, and their business relationships with Carl personally. As well as the list of those who can use the health center for free at the former YMCA.

He also uses that power to exact some pretty strong and personal vendetta-paybacks.

For each property owned by Center, it's tax-roll dollars not collected, except for paying for-profit tenants.

The sad fact is, Carl uses his publicly-financed clout to buy personal favor.

He suite-hops at every Colts game. Drives a fancy windows-tinted Crown Vic with police equipment, and carries a township deputy constable badge.

Boys with toys. Amazing. He buys these Corvettes and other vehicles and travels all over the country, on a trustee's salary, with children to support?


Gary R. Welsh said...

Linda, Jon has been on the advisory board for less than a full term. He is a Republican, and the last time I checked the Democrats on the Board outnumber Republicans 5-2.

Anonymous said...

"They have no problem with the way Center
Township is operating and resent "outsiders" trying stir up stuff needlessly!"

Funny. I would bet a few of the supporters for more "regional" taxes hail from Center township. I am sick of Center Township "outsiders" trying to tax folks like me who do not even live in Marion Co. to pay for their Ir$ay Playgroungs, Simons Taj Mahals, and now police. If police and fire consolidation makes sense, so does school district and township government. Why is the constable even around in Marion Co. but no other Indiana counties?

This is why I have no problem with folks making a few grand under the table and not paying taxes on it. Drummer and the rest of the Dems will be going to the GA demanding additional "regional" taxes to help pay for public safety. They need to drain all township trustee bank accounts and sell all un-needed property before trying to steal my money.

indyernie said...

Wilson, Drummers a crook and your association with him and his goons (Duncan and others) shows us your true colors.
I think Brizzi needs to open an investigation of all involved. And that includes our Mayor.

Anonymous said...

I for one am astounded that there are no restaurants with white tableclothes in "inner-city" Indianapolis. That's why he wants 300 East. I'm sure that's news to chefs at Elements, R Bistro, The Oceanaire, and a whole host of other downtown eateries. What one learns in the pages of the IBJ.

Anonymous said...

Another blogger submitted a public records request to Drummer asking for copies of leases, etc. He refused to provide the information.

Anonymous said...

I'm not optimistic that our prosecutor will do anything to protect those in "urban communities" from thugs like Carl Drummer, Lacy Johnson, Tony Duncan or Monroe Gray.

I think his motto is "That's their problem, not mine"

It's a darn shame when both our mayor and prosecutor is afraid of ghetto mafia.

Anonymous said...

Any citizen who submits a Public Records request to Drummer, or any elected official, and cannot get an answer, should run, not walk to the Public Access COunselor in the State office Building.

There are criminal penalties for consistent refusal of public officials to abide by this law.

Did this request get ignore,d or just ont answered? There is a difference. As a hint: make your request in writing, and ask for it by a reasonable date certain. Copy the Public Access Counselor.

Anonymous said...

Advance Indiana:

I told you so! Employees and several board members have complained to me and others in the community for a number of years, but nothing was ever done about the reduction in tax dollars used for poor relief services, automobiles stored in the vacant building on Mass Avenue, and the expenditures which were not directly related to the conduct of business of the Center Township Trustee's office and which is regulated by state statute.

Yes, he did ignore my request for public records dated 9/7/06, which were hand-delivered to Drummer and 6 of the 7 board members, one member was absent due to an illness at the Township Board Meeting.

I faxed and mailed a second request to Drummer on 10/22/06...

Finally, I did contact the public access councilor on 10/24/06. I would assumed that she contacted the office, and I received a letter dated 10/30/06, received on 11/10/06 signed by Alan Mizen, CPA Chief Financial Officer stating the number of pages (300-330)and the costs of the documents I had requested. He stated that I should direct my instructions to Drummer. Each of my letters was addressed to Trustee Drummer.

I have mailed a third letter as of Friday, 11/17/06 requesting an itemized list of the documents to be copied so that I will know that it is the correct information I have requested.

It is interesting that the IBJ article was printed after the election. This and more has been going on for 10 years. This information was submitted to the former owners of the Star and nothing was ever published. .

Reasons why I was so viciously attacked for disclosing the information on this blog by Wilson and other anonymous bloggers. They knew the voters didn't know!

Wilson46201 said...

J.T. has been collecting documents by the thousands for many years from Center Township desperately digging for dirt. Somehow in the all the years of Prosecutors Goldsmith/ Modisett/ Newman/ Brizzi she has never been able to produce anything substantial except in her own frenzied mind. Reporters have learned to avoid such an obsessed mud-slinger. Bloggers are her new medium for her self-publicity and her incessant calumnies...

indyernie said...

Wilson there is no excuse for not providing public documents. Nothing TOP SECRET going on here.
Right and wrong has nothing to do with your not liking Tandy.

I say we all request the leases and if they are not provided maybe a lawsuit is warranted.

Hint hint Gary,...Maybe a request that can be copied from a blog, our names and addresses inserted and mailed...I’m game.

LPerdue said...

Gary, you know as well as I do that the board is a rubber stamp. I would say the same to and about the Democrats on the board. Do you think that because there's only two Republicans on the board and Elrod hasn't been on there for very long, that he shouldn't be held accountable along with the rest of the board? Of course you don't. You would agree with me that they all need to have their feet held to the fire.

Anonymous said...

Advance Indiana:

Response to Stupid Wilson 7:25 PM

Timing is everything in politics. Maybe they weren't listening then, but people are listening and paying attention now!

You are just as much apart of this mess as the others. You volunteered to be used by the Ghetto Mafia, and now the truth is being published by IBJ. I would suggest that you find another horse to ride, because this horse is headed for the slaughter.

Each of their other puppets and flunkies are deceased now and you are the only one left who is stupid enough to keep attacking me for exposing the truth about the way business is conducted in the Center Township Trustee's office.

Remember, I never worked there, but my sources did. You act as if I don't have the right to make inquiries as a concerned community activist and resident of Center Township when board members and employees have complained to me and others. They feared being harassed and loss of heir jobs if it was revealed that they did not approve of the actions of the Ghetto Mafia. You have proven to everyone on these blogs how vicious you can be.

To date, Carson, neither Drummer nor you have bothered to answer questions raised about the way business has been conducted in this office. Have each of you forgotten these public offices and the money belong to the citizens of the township and are not yours to do with as you choose? They will be held accountable since their responsibilities are governed by state laws. You have changed the subject each time, and have attempted to distract the attention of the readers to petty mudslinging and insults.

However, you should know by now that I don't succumb to harassment, threats, and intimidation nor smear campaigns! So give it up and stick to the issues at hand if you are going to continue to have comments on the subject. The IBJ article is about Carl Drummer, trustee, not me.

Anonymous said...

I'm now interested in sniping between Jocelyn and Wilson. Nothing new there, and, frankly, not very interesting.

Wilson: these requests for information, and the items reported in the IBJ, reveal a callous "ownership" attitude by Center Township officials.

They do not own the offices they occupy. They occupy them at the behest of voters. Yes, Carl was re-elected two weeks ago.

In Center, a Democrat in the ballot is gauranteed of victory before he gets out of bed.

I read the IBJ article and had to put it down twice before my blood pressure got too high. Who does this trustee think he is?

Being an apologist for this kind of public malfeasance is not attractive, Wilson. Don't turn this into more of the petty sniping you and Jocelyn engage in. It's bigger than that.

I doubt prior prosecutors have been given the kind of information we all read in the IBJ. It's shameful.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Linda, my point is that Jon has been on the board 2 years. Everything complained of in the IBJ story had already happened by the time he joined the board. He is the only member of the board you see quoted in the article. That should tell us something.

Anonymous said...

Damn fine reporting IBJ! And to you AI for bringing it out to those of us who don't subscribe to IBJ - and perhaps we should!!

Anonymous said...

... so I gather AI voted against Carl? It was duly counted.

Uh-oh AI. Better make sure your fire insurance is paid up.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm....all these salient observations about Center Township Dems, and no Wilson?

He must already have left for Grandmama's house.

He's got Mae, too, to watch.

Anonymous said...

Advance indiana:

Remember Wilson Allen was the Township Clerk in the Center Township Trustee's office under Julia Carson and Carl Drummer before he retired 2 years ago.
he knows quite a bit of information
regarding business transactions and arrangements that were conducted and expenditures.

He needs to disclose what he knows on the subject or shut up!

Anonymous said...

Advance indiana:

Remember Wilson Allen was the Township Clerk in the Center Township Trustee's office under Julia Carson and Carl Drummer before he retired 2 years ago.
he knows quite a bit of information
regarding business transactions and arrangements that were conducted and expenditures.

He needs to disclose what he knows on the subject or shut up!

Wilson46201 said...

Jocelyn, instead of posting here and elsewhere so much, why don't you get a real job and start paying all those judgments rendered against you by so many courts? You are such a deadbeat that your main financial skills seem to be in avoiding creditors, landlords and constables!

Anonymous said...

The Center Township Trustee office seems more and more like a fiefdom operating for the personal benefit of the trustee and his cronies than anything else. This is starting to look like Chicago... and this is coming from a pretty loyal D.

Anonymous said...

Response to Stupid Insecure Wilson Allen 11:33 AM

Another distraction, change the subject, what is your point?
For your information, I haven't avoided anyone. More smear!

When are you going to comment on?
Your relationship with the Ghetto Mafia? Lets talk about ghost employment while you were employed at the Center Township Trustee's office! I am sure you know about that subject.

The IBJ article is about the Center Township Trustee Office and the handling of public funds. I don't handle public funds, but you signed many checks for the Trustees. You should talk about the role you have played in all of this now that the office has been placed in the public spotlight.

The games that are played on people who speak out. I will deal with you later.

How many earned college credits or the level of education does Julia Carson, congresswoman have? Carl Drummer, trustee, Tony Duncan, constable? Wilson Allen, former township clerk?

Provide us with the information Wilson since you are so good at dumpster diving, and providing information on everyone else.

While you are at it, can you please tell me who burglarized, vandalized my home and burnt it to the ground?

Anonymous said...

I know how we could raise a whole lot of money fast. Let's sell tickets at the RCA Dome for a celebrity boxing match between Wilson and Jocelyn. Hopefully they would knock eachother silly enough that we wouldn't have to listen to these two idiots go at eachother on this site.


Anonymous said...

Anonymous 3:34 PM

As long as my name is being mentioned on these blogs by you, Wilson, or anyone else, I will respond to whom ever is throwing my name around. You seem to have your opinion, but I don't know who you are. Are you afraid of being recognized if you used your real name?

Anonymous said...

Jocelyn, honey...don't carp on anonymous posters. You, more than anyone, should know how the Center machine retaliates against those it can persecute.

Be the bigger person. Don't respond to Wilson's attacks.

His "duly noted" comment about AI's Township Trustee Vote on Nov. 7, was one of the uglier comments I've seen from him, but it showed his true colors.

Let it go....just let it go. No one on here cares about his charges, or, for that matter, your answers.

The road less travelled is usually the high road.

Anonymous said...

It costs $2.65 for every dollar of Center poor relief to get it its intended recipients.

At that rate, Drummer and crew oughta operate the Pentagon.

The sad part is, all these buildings they're buying, are off the tax rolls, unless the tenants are for-profit entities. And evidently, that's not certain, according to the IBJ article.

So it's a double-whammy. The township is out the money to buy the buildings, and no prop. tax money comes in.

Clearly, whatever "outside the box" theory Drummer uses, this is government at its worst.

$2.65 for every dollar...truly poor people have no voice, so their outrage is muted. And for this "efficiency," he's the highest-paid trustee in Indiana, at $90K? What a complete waste of taxpayer dollars.

Anonymous said...

What can you expect of a high-school drop-out? Carl Drummer doesn't have enough education to understand how to think "outside the box" hell, he doesn't even understand what's "in the box".

We've gotta kick these bums out of office.

b cox said...

In the real world it is a rat race to see who can get what. My name is Barbara Cox and I just got back from the trusties office. I gave them all the information on income and receipts for where the income went. I was disturbed to find out that for three months one could only make 1,811 dollars for two people. So who helps those whom have made more but are just going through a hardship? 1,811 is not even enough to pay ones rent or mortgage at today's prices then the person is still supposed to pay bills, eat and have basic household needs. Yea, right! I can see why people are going postal. The government will help themselves all the time; low income some of the time but those that just need an occasional hand never.

My daughter cries at night and ask "mom what can I take with me when we move to the shelter?"

This is very hard to here. Because I got out of the system and did good for a while; I am not qualified for any help. My house got broken into four times last October. So when I received my tax refund I spent it on fixing the house. I am still not done. I never expected to get an infected finger and be out of work for so long. I guess I have failed by Trying to have a better life for me and my daughter. This hurts. I try so hard...but there is no help out there for people trying to do better. The system also tries to keep down anyone that does try to better themselves.

I went back to the ER Saterday the infection has gotten worse. I guess I have to die. I have no money I can not afford perscriptions. So please someone put on my grave stone here is someone they could have saved.

August 29, 2000 Section: METRO NORTH Edition: CITY Page: N01
Woman's refusal to give up pays off
Opportunity now knocks on the door of her new house, which she helped construct. CHRISTINA LOH STAFF WRITER
ZIONSVILLE, Ind. - Barbara Cox was so down on her luck at one point years ago, she remembers knocking on doors to ask for bread and water.
When people kept turning her away, she thought, 'There's got to be more love in Indianapolis than.”
There was.
This month, Barbara and her daughter, Cheyenne, 3, joined several other people who moved into their new Habitat for Humanity homes in Indianapolis. The houses are across the street from Watkins Park near the intersection of West 24th and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. streets.
Having a home of her own is a huge change for Cox, who has gone from struggling to survive to a good job and climbing the ladder as a nurse's aide at Village Christian Parke in Zionsville.
Those who know the 32 -year-old say she deserves every bit of the good fortune. "She's one of the most dependable employees we have," said James Robinson, administrator of the retirement community on Ford Road.
A social worker recommended she call Habitat for Humanity.
"I called, not knowing what I was getting into," said Cox. "When I found out there was a house in it, ecstatic."
Habitat for Humanity, an international nonprofit organization, enables low-income people who qualify own homes. Candidates and community volunteers build the houses, under Habitat's supervision. Then, the new homeowners pay off a no-interest, no-profit mortgage.
Habitat is hardly a handout. There is considerable sweat equity involved in literally putting together home with the help of volunteers.
Diana Rice-Wilkerson, director of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Indianapolis, said Cox put in countless hours to prepare the house for herself and Cheyenne.
"Barbara has demonstrated the type of commitment as a new homeowner we like to see," Rice-Wilkerson said.
Cox has had to persevere before. Several years ago, her boss at a Motel 6 fired her. She was pregnant and couldn't land another job to keep up with the bills.
"When you're pregnant and sticking out like that, they all seem to say, 'Come back when it's over.''
Her boyfriend at the time put her up in a hotel room for two months. When the money ran out, Cox her van.
That's when she found herself begging for food.
A mother fed her after she learned the pregnant woman hadn't eaten in three days. Cox didn't know where to turn, then became familiar with several nonprofit organizations and began staying in shelters.
'There are places where you can go," Cox said, "but, at first, I didn't know where they were or how there."
Eventually, she landed a job and secured low-cost housing. But the neighborhood was so poor and ridden that she called her apartment complex a "nine-story crack house."
Once, someone stole her baby supplies, which were donated. Cox reported the theft to the apartment manager, who said the supplies weren't really Cox's to begin with.
Later, a group of people took her car. When they returned it, they had run it out of gas, dented it and danced on top of it.
Cox moved, but the new neighborhood was hardly an improvement. She remembers a visitor couldn't get past the yellow tape that was up as police officers were investigating a stabbing.
Cox and her baby both had health problems after Cheyenne's birth, but things are looking up in that area. "We're all healthy now, thank God," Cox said with a smile.
Gradually, Cox worked her way out of poverty. She found income-based housing, with rent as low $15 a month. A charity organization provided her with furniture.
With help from a number of charity organizations, Cox scraped together enough for her and her daughter to survive, plus a little extra. She enrolled in classes to study computer information systems and to become a qualified medical aide and certified nurse's aide.
A recruiter from Village Christian Parke hired her as a nurse's aide in May 1998.
Administrator Robinson said Cox took classes to become certified as a Qualified Medication Aide I; December. He said her pleasant demeanor helps make the retirement community a better place.
Cox is one class away from earning her degree in computer information systems. Her next goal is t a nursing degree.
"I'm proud of her," said Cox's friend, Michelle Hamlin.
"She's come from living on the streets and having nothing to saving and having a roof over her daughter’s head."