Rhonda Bayless

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Rhonda Bayless wears a lot of hats. She works in Flanner House, the multi-service center that is in the heart of the King Corridor, one of Indy’s designated Great Places. The area celebrates both the richness of Indy’s African American community, and its commitment to its current families’ well-being, and the future of the neighborhood.

In her job leading the Center of Wellness for Urban Women, she encountered KIB when she applied for a GreenSpace grant several years ago. “KIB was very engaging in that process with us. We’re such a small organization. They helped us through the whole process: thinking through the steps of designing and building the project; helping us maintain it; and having a larger strategy in how to engage the community in how to enter the space. I always think very positively about KIB.”

When it was suggested in 2017 that an orchard would be a wonderful addition to the ‘front yard’ of Flanner House, she suggested that once again, KIB would be a good partner. 

Then Bayless and her colleagues in Flanner House leveraged KIB’s support and funding to entice other local non-profits to share the work and expand the project’s reach. Groundwork Indy, a local group that provides meaningful work and training for youth did much of the literal heavy lifting and tree installation for the Flanner House Community Orchard.

Maintenance is a group effort, shared among the KIB, Groundwork Indy Green Team, and the Flanner House FEED program. Additional support came from INHP.

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The orchard contains peach, pear, apple, plum and cherry trees. Neighbors are welcome to pick the ripe fruit; whatever is left over is sold in the bodega. 
Rhonda also consults with KIB’s staff when she needs help opening doors to other city agencies. For example, Watkins Park is part of the Great Places ‘zone’ as well. She is in conversation with IndyParks to come up with a renovation plan for Watkins that will create safe and welcoming recreation spaces for neighborhood youth, without the long and expensive planning process that is sometimes involved in such initiatives.

The most recent initiative at Flanner House is the Bodega and its connected café. The bodega is an important step in addressing the issue of food access in the King neighborhood: it is stocked with staples, nothing over $6, that can help tide a family over until they can get to a bigger grocery. Next door, the café is turning into a vital neighborhood gathering and workspace, with great coffee, simple grab-and-go lunches, and free wifi. One look at how full it is, at all hours, and you know that it is filling an important neighborhood niche.
 

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