CINCINNATI — Terry Walls knows how important it is for kids in Lower Price Hill to have a place to spend time in creative and constructive ways -- that’s what he needed growing up in the neighborhood.
That’s why nearly every day for more than a decade, Walls has volunteered his time, energy and know-how at the Joe Williams Family Center on Glenway Avenue.
“I like the center and all that, and the people. It’s great people,” said Walls, 55, as he took a break from tidying up outside the building. “I like doing stuff for the kids to help ‘em out so they got a place to go.”
Walls sweeps leaves, pulls weeds and clears snow outside when needed. He makes a fresh pot of coffee for the center’s staff each morning and takes care of maintenance problems inside. He also stops by every other Sunday to take the recycling cans to the curb.
“He’s just so hardworking and so helpful,” said Jessica Polzin, youth development coordinator at Santa Maria Community Services, which runs the center. “Gosh, I don’t know what we’d do without him here.”
He has painted some of the center’s walls, helped hang a chalk board in the kitchen and has helped out with trim work, too, Polzin said.
“There was a time when the sink overflowed, and actually through this art room into the office in back,” she said. “And he helped us pull up the carpet tiles and dry it all out and repair everything.”
And Walls does it all using crutches to help him walk.
An automobile crash in the 1980s made Walls a paraplegic, he said, and he hasn’t been able to feel his legs since.
“It took me a while to learn to walk with these,” he said of the crutches. “And once I got to walking well, and learning how to walk with them, I started doing everything.”
‘Thankful to God’
Walls doesn’t get paid for the work he does at the center.
Polzin said his contributions are priceless.
“Volunteers, especially for this site, are super important because we have so much youth programming and family work that if families are in crisis, it could take all of our attention for days and a lot of youth programming trying to minimize the chaos and make a fun environment for them,” she said. “We don’t always have time to do all of the nitty gritty stuff around here.”
Walls was a youth participant at the center back when it was the Boys Club, he said, and then a Boys & Girls Club.
Polzin said he’s been helping as an adult since long before she started working at Santa Maria 10 years ago.
“He’s super protective of all of us females in here, making sure that we feel safe and there’s not anyone bothering us, which is super sweet as well,” she said. “If he’s not here, we get concerned that something is wrong. We check up on him just like he would all of us.”
And even on days when Walls is feeling tired, Polzin said, he is always asking what he can do to help.
“There’s not a time where he shows any type of selfishness,” she said. “He is always giving back in any way that he can.”
Walls said he’s happy he can do it.
“I’m thankful to God that I’m alive,” he said. “And I’m thankful for what I can do and donate back to this community.”
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