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'Good Things Happen Here': Mom Ditches 'Burbs And Brings Hope To West Side

By Justin Breen | October 6, 2016 8:47am
 North Lawndale's Sheila Holmes has been named Parent of the Year by Turning the Page Chicago.
Sheila Holmes
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CHICAGO — While thousands of Chicagoans have vacated their beloved city over the last few decades, Sheila Holmes was determined to move back to her native North Lawndale — one of the city's most violent neighborhoods.

Holmes, 50, recently moved back to a house within a block of her childhood home near Sacramento Boulevard and Lexington Street because the West Side offered something she said her previous residence in the western suburbs did not: a friendly environment.

"Oftentimes, we run from the place where we're from because we think it's not good enough for us," said Holmes, an adjunct professor of psychology and school counseling at City Colleges of Chicago and Concordia University. "In the suburbs, nobody knows anybody really. It was too distant, so I moved back to a community I'm comfortable in and familiar with."

Holmes this week was named "parent of the year" by Turning The Page Chicago, a North Lawndale-based organization that brings neighborhood residents together and provides activities like gardening, cooking and museum tours.

Kylia Kummer, managing director of Turning The Page, said Holmes never misses an event, always bringing her 11-year-old daughter, also named Sheila, her three godchildren — ages 12, 7 and 6 — and other kids. The get-togethers are usually held at Kellman Elementary School, where Holmes' daughter is in sixth grade and Holmes is an alumna.

"Not only is Mrs. Holmes a remarkable parent leader in her daughter’s school, Mrs. Holmes is a devoted community leader and Turning The Page cheerleader," Kummer said. "She has attended every single Turning the Page event and even set out to recruit more families to join in on the fun while encouraging them to be more involved in their community."

Since 2000, North Lawndale has lost more than 6,100 residents, and although whites, Asians and Hispanics have moved in, more than 7,000 black residents have departed the community. Violence in the neighborhood is often cited as a reason: This year through Oct. 2, there have been 159 shootings and 22 homicides in North Lawndale, according to DNAinfo data.

Shootings in North Lawndale this year through Oct. 2, 2016, according to DNAinfo data {red circles are fatal shootings. According to the data, there have been 159 shootings in the community area; that includes 22 homicides. [DNAinfo]

Holmes said she's seen the aftermath of one fatal shooting near her home, but for the most part, her neighborhood is filled with good, hardworking families who host block parties, cookouts and indoor movie nights. This weekend, Holmes is having a bunch of children over for nachos and a movie.

"I don't let the violence consume me," Holmes said. "Things happen around here, but I don't live in fear. There are shootings and a lot of unnecessary violence, but there are a lot of good things that happen here that aren't appreciated."

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