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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Carol Hieneman Cares: Cleaning Up Messes

Carol Hieneman answered the call. She chose to take it upon herself to better problems in her neighborhood, thus improving conditions in her community and her county. By her actions, she proved her determination to make all our lives in Scioto County a little brighter. In doing so, Carol taught us lessons in civic duty and ethics.

What did Carol do that made an immediate improvement to her neighborhood? Of her own accord, she took on an arduous project of clearing tree branches, brush and vines that infested a lot on Armstrong Avenue, an eyesore two doors down from her home.

You see, Carol and her neighbors had witnessed illegal activity such as prostitution and drug deals on the lot for such a long time that she finally got fed up and took the matter into her own hands. The thick vegetation on the lot offered criminals a perfect shield for a convenient place to commit various crimes. After two weeks of working 8-10 hour days on the project, she cleared the debris that had served the criminals so well.

Carol is no stranger to providing human kindness. Josh Richardson, reporter for the Portsmouth Daily Times, wrote, "The Portsmouth mother of two grown children — known in the neighborhood as The Lawn Lady — typically mows the grass for her elderly neighbors. With such little rain recently she had some time on her hands."

Instead of resting until her neighbors' grass grew tall, Carol decided to do something else constructive – clear that dangerous, overgrown lot.

“When it was all brush, all kinds of illegal activity, you know: prostitution, drug deals. They’d walk up in here and stuff,” Hieneman said. “The kids in the alley could see it happening all the time. People would stop in their cars, get out and do their transactions. I said, by God, I want to see who’s over there.”

Let me pause here. Carol possesses some rare qualities – generosity and the brave, determined spirit of activism at the core of creating improvements to our county. Despite the possibility of retaliation, Carol did something very personal yet very positive for all her fellow neighbors. I believe her concern and her personal actions represent the best solution for bettering life in an area riddled with criminal activity. Let me repeat what she said so that the message is very clear:

Carol Hieneman said,
I want to see who's over there."

So many people "talk the talk" but Carol did more: She found something she could do to make a difference, and she took it upon herself to do it. Carol Hieneman cleared the ugliness that had been suppressing and endangering those in her neighborhood. Even small children there had been held “captive witnesses” due to their proximity to the past illicit activity. Who knows how much good her relatively simple actions may bring?

Braving poison ivy, contaminated trash and vermin, Carol did the strenuous work herself. She moved the debris and trash to the driveway of a vacant home that sits next to the lot. That house was burned earlier this year in a suspected arson.

She admits she didn't know who owned the land, but that is not because she didn't try to find out. The Times reported: "...she has tried to contact the city for help, but no one responded to her emails. She said she wrote an email to the City of Portsmouth and asked for a dumpster."

Carol said, “They don’t even acknowledge my emails. So I thought, well, eventually they’re gonna have to demolish this (house); they can take all this trash with them."

Again let me pause. Did you understand what Carol said?

Eventually...they (the city)
can take all this trash with time"

This is our civics lesson. No matter the obstacles we face, much like those that face Carol Hieneman, we can take it upon ourselves to help rid our neighborhoods of crime and ugly circumstances that endanger our citizens. If the appropriate officials do not satisfy our simple requests (in this case, a request that helped to relieve them of great hazard), we can still do something ourselves to further the needed improvement. “Eventually” the work will impact even more improvement, and “eventually” the “trash” will be cleaned up.

Trash. Isn't it fitting that Carol uses this term – sometimes the right word just flows perfectly when people are on a mission. “Trash” to Carol is not only the debris she cleared but also the drug activity and prostitution, all of the harmful elements in her environment.

Carol hopes the open space not only helps the crime problem, but also creates an area that may be productive for the city.

My Take

Carol Hieneman, you are no longer known as the "Lawn Lady." From now on, I think you should be addressed as the “True Action Hero” or, perhaps, “Miss Inspiration.” Imagine another 700 or 800 people in our county of 80,000 population doing something truly constructive of their own volition with the spirit of improving the lives of their fellow man.

That, by the way, would be a mere 1% of our folks. In a short time, the total improvement would be staggering. Clean it up, fix it up, make it better, work on it – people could search their mind for their contribution that would make the most meaningful improvement to them and, just as importantly, to their neighbors.

Instead of sitting back and griping in the face of “who wouldn't do what” (And don't we hear a boatload of that?), Carol decided to initiate her own sensible, constructive actions. It's just a pity some of us didn't know about her project so that we could have helped her with her commitment. Encouraging teamwork, supplying the engine, taking personal responsibility, caring for our neighbors, and acting promptly to reduce threats of future problems – Carol, thanks for all the lessons. We all owe you a great debt of gratitude.

 "God grants liberty only to those
who love it, and are always ready
to guard and defend it."

-Daniel Webster
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