By Stephanie Dolan
Many neighborhoods operate around a central hub, a piston that keeps the community pumping. For a good portion of the Southside, that hub is the Concord Neighborhood Center at 1310 S. Meridian St.
“Concord was founded as a settlement house in 1875 for German and Jewish families who relocated here for work,” said Hallie Robbins, resource development coordinator for Concord. “Early-industry-created jobs attracted people who could do those jobs and a sense of community built up around them. And you still see remnants of it today.
“Shapiro’s is two blocks north. The Indiana Historical Society is doing an exhibit about the German growers – the greenhouses along Bluff Road. You kind of see the history here – starting here and spreading out.”
Today, Concord has six core programs.
“We have nationally accredited childhood education for children, 3-5 years,” Robbins said. “That’s a full day kindergarten readiness curriculum. We have before, after and out-of-school youth development for elementary and middle school-age kids. And a more comprehensive teen development follows the same schedule but is a little more job skill ready. That program also includes healthy relationship skills building and academic enrichment.”
Robbins, who started at Concord 10 years ago as a day camp counselor, said that the school-age program includes these things as well, but the high school program is a little more focused on what comes after high school.
Juanita Isom is a mother of five who grew up on the Southside in the St. Roch neighborhood. Her oldest child is now 20 and grew up going to Concord. Her other children are 17, 15, 14 and 10.
“I worked and was a single mom and appreciated them very much for being open all the time,” she said. “My boys loved the program for teens – the teen nights. They got to play basketball and just hang out with their friends. The summer camp program is also great. My older boys are summer camp counselors now.”
Isom said that her youngest daughter is now the only one taking advantage of the after-school program.
“She loves it,” she said. “She also loves ‘girl’s night’. She learned how to set a table.”
Robbins said that there are 40 kids in the early learning program. The after-school program ranges from anywhere to about 60 in average daily attendance to as much as 120 in the summer months. There are also teen night programs twice a week. That can welcome anywhere from about 20 – 40 kids.
“We also have senior adult enrichment, which is a ton of fun,” Robbins said. “That meets daily in the mornings. We’re helping seniors to maintain their independence as long as they want to. We’re not so much focused around adult day care or assisted living. Most people are retired but still very independent. We have a lot of really fun seniors right now, and we have trained artists coming in from the Art Center right now in a six-week program doing some pretty legitimate art projects.”
Concord also boasts a nutrition program that includes the Dynki Deli.
“That’s open every weekday from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.,” Robbins said. “They serve nutritious lunches to anyone in the community, but it’s subsidized for seniors. So, it’s not just a hunger prevention initiative. We have a food pantry once a month, but this is about coming here to eat with us. Those social connections are one of the most powerful things we can offer our adults.”
Lunch is $4 for senior participants and $6 for everyone else.
“There’s a daily Dynki Deli special, and then there’s regular staples you’d associate with a deli,” Robbins added.
Quality of life
Concord Neighborhood Center also offers family social services.
“I think people tend to associate this the most to what a neighborhood center does,” Robbins said. “We do have that basic social assistance for rent assistance, utility assistance, housing, transportation and food. But that’s not all we do. That really just helps to make sure that families can maintain their self-sufficiency and improve their quality of life over time. There are also referrals to partner agencies that do things that we don’t or can’t as well like licensed mental health counseling, addiction resources, domestic violence … things we don’t do here but we can be the starting point for that.”
While Concord welcomes seniors from as far south as Greenwood, the formal southern service boundary is Thompson Road.
“We’re here doing this for all Southsiders,” Robbins said.
The other boundaries include Washington Street to the north, I-65 to the east and White River to the west.
Anyone interested in learning more about the programs at Concord or who may be in need of family services can call (317) 637-4376 to make an appointment. Tours are available.
“I love how long we’ve been here – I think that speaks to how much the community trusts us,” Robbins said. “We can really work together to help people thrive. There’s a little something here for everyone, no matter where they are in life. I really love the continuum of service. The connectivity of it can be very individualized. We can offer very tailored assistance.”
Robbins also said that funding for assistance comes from the United Way, some government contracts and individual donors who believe in self-sufficiency for families and communities. The center welcomes several volunteers and boasts a full-time staff of 17.
Joanna Heidenreich Nevitt, a resident of Center Grove, is a volunteer each Tuesday at the Dynki Deli.
“Everybody here is so nice,” she said. “So kind. The people are the best thing about being here – what they do for others. Once you walk through the doors, you see the people interacting with the children and that’s great. It’s a good environment to be in.”
For more information on Concord Neighborhood Center, visit their website at concordindy.org.
5 questions with Hallie Robbins
Who or what inspires you? The families here at Concord.
What are you currently reading? A Lucky Man by James Brinkley.
Do you have any pets? A dog named Carly Simon and she gets to come to work with me. She turns 7 on Monday.
What do you do to relax? I like to read.
Do you consider yourself a feminist? Yes. How could you not be?