Awesome project: Safe crossings with Miss Lucille, grandmother and Cleveland crossing guard

Right now, more than ever, we are in awe of the strength, compassion, and  openheartedness of our ioby community. Our ioby Leaders reach out to neighbors to dream, collaborate, and do the hard work of making   positive change where we live. We know that by working together, even on something small, we can  transform our love for our communities into  action – and that’s a powerful thing.

Lucille White –Miss Lucille, to the school kids she serves – is a great example of this kind of drive rooted in compassion. She’s a longtime crossing guard at 113th and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, in Cleveland, serving both Harvey Rice and the Intergenerational School. A grandmother of 19 grandkids, three of whom are in college,  Lucille never planned to be a crossing guard.  But one day she saw a guard struggling to slow  the traffic, and stopped to ask if she could help. That guard told Lucille that she’d get in trouble if she accepted help on the job, but that what Lucille could do was apply for the job herself.  So she did.

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All these years later, there is still something special for Lucille about the simple act of protecting her neighbors as they cross a dangerous street. She herself has lost two nieces to hit-and-runs. “It’s not about the money,” she says, “because what we make every two weeks is $166 after taxes.  It’s a dedication to life, for me.” It’s about helping those who are vulnerable – especially the young, the elderly, the disabled – cross  safely, asking them about their days as they go. “I talk to them about positive things, and how good they’re doing,” Lucille says. “They want to make it to school okay. You have kids that come to school at 7:15 in the morning, and they’re walking in the dark. Who’s watching out for them? Nobody. I’m their eyes.”


The cost of road rage

Not everyone appreciates Lucille’s efforts. Impatient drivers often flip her off, curse her out, scream  slurs, and refuse to stop, or even slow down. She carries on, holding up her phone on the flashlight setting, for light, begging drivers to slow down, thanking those who do. “Last week on Monday,” says Lucille, “I was there at 7:15, and Cleveland Municipal School District Police was supposed to be there with me but they didn’t show up, and I was crossing a kid, a teenager, and it was kind of dark. We’re in the middle of the street, and I see this car coming flying towards us, and I’m waving my arms, blowing my whistle, the whole nine yards. This driver intentionally tried to run us over. It set me in a mindset where I was gonna quit.”

“I may start crying,” Lucille continues. “I’m trying not to. I was crossing a woman who had just dropped her kids at the school, and a lady pulls up, I guess she was in a hurry, I don’t know what, but that lady cussed me out. ‘That ain’t no f-ing kid, get the f out the street, you stupid Black b, and on and on. I looked at her and smiled and said, ‘you have a blessed day.’ Why do we have so much anger and hatred? One lady came back and apologized.”


How care spreads

On the other hand, when Lucille asks the older, bigger kids to protect younger or disabled kids as they cross the street, they listen. They do as she says. Sometimes, if one of the students has made good grades, Lucille will give him or her five dollars, just to show that good work always eventually gets noticed and rewarded. Lucille’s a natural-born guardian, even when she’s off-duty. Despite a bad back and chronic arthritis in her neck, she makes sure to drop into her local libraries to read to kids, talks to the young people she meets in the Dollar Store. If she catches a young person about to steal, she makes them empty their pockets in front of her, and then she buys them what they need to eat.

Right now, Lucille is raising money to help make her crosswalk safer for the kids she shepherds back and forth each day. This is her last day  to raise the remaining $425 that’s needed to buy supplies for the traffic calming interventions that are needed. “We need lights,” says Lucille. “I really wish they could put a camera up there for the school zones, for the speeders.” A young boy and an elderly man were killed at the intersection by speeding drivers this summer.

Visit Lucille’s campaign page to give.

Feeling inspired? Want to take action in YOUR neighborhood? If you have awesome ideas about how to make your town greener, safer, and more fun, let us help! Tell us your awesome idea right here. We’d love to help you get started today.