Story and photo by Debbi Casini Klein | Audio edited by Louis D’Aria
Up until about five years ago, East Deuschtown was peppered with vacant lots, dilapidated houses and was a haven for drug dealers.
Now its landscape has changed dramatically, and a great deal of that metamorphosis can be attributed to Ruth Ann Dailey, mother of three, who traded suburban living for the urban life on the North Side.
“I was living in a ‘McMansion’ in a nice neighborhood, and then I started attending a church down here on the North Side. I felt adrift. I didn’t feel that I was living with a purpose,” Ruth Ann said.
She found that purpose to leave suburbia and help revitalize a depressed town. Ruth Ann bought a run-down building that was once a shoe polish factory and renovated it. But she didn’t stop there. She began organizing community meetings, getting grants and finding ways to beautify the neighborhood.
“Ruth Ann is the kind of organizer who can step in and have such intense passion that people are willing to listen” said Casey Droege, who lives is East Deuschtown and has seen the remarkable transformation. “You can see people picking up trash while they’re walking on the way home. They’re actually outside on the street. They’re not just there to sell drugs or hang out or soliciting prostitutes.”
“I think there’s a return of ‘pride of place’ is what I call it, in our neighborhood” Ruth Ann said. “I think we’re on a really good path here right now. We have really wonderful people involved, and they’re so committed to building up the community, to changing the quality of life here, one block at a time.”