Her smile is infectious. And thanks to her hard work, there's excitement now in her once-troubled neighborhood in North Omaha.
People are talking to their neighbors and they've held an annual block party for more than 15-years.
It used to be that a nice peaceful walk through her Central Park neighborhood would not have been possible.
Apostle Vanessa Ward said, “There were drugs dealers on every corner, prostitution running amok, trash flung in the street like no one cared, a little boy seven-years-old selling dope in the alley behind my home."
Vanessa decided to make a change, cleaning up her neighborhood, reaching out to unite the neighbors, and showing courage along the way.
“It was scary,” she said. “Not to mention when you live in a high-risk neighborhood, what’s the main culprit? It's isolation. So, as long as we're disconnected to one another and no one’s showing that we're displeased with this caliber of living, it grows."
Good things are growing now, like the community garden where neighbors come to pray meditate or just feel safe. The garden is an effort of the entire city. Vanessa says we need that same effort to make change citywide.
She said, “Until we have a game plan that stresses that we're moving with one common theme in every arena, be it school be it home be it the workplace that this is the city, we're going to stand and fight for unity, peace and safety. When we all say yes across the board, we'll see it."
WOWT NBC Omaha is proud to sponsor the Heroes in the Heartland lunch next week. Ward is among those being honored.