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People of the South End: George York

by Mahalia Cummings

George York has been living in the South End for twenty-two years. George is deeply committed to serving his community and consistently shows up for the South End community through his work at AVillage and the Children’s Café. George volunteers at The Children’s Café from open to close, five days a week.

George’s favorite part about volunteering at the Children’s Café is the familial atmosphere. One of the core aspects of its mission is to nourish people. George enjoys that this is a place that families can come together and eat, and have a good time while doing it.

He likes to be useful, which explains his role at the Café.  George wouldn’t necessarily consider himself a mentor, but he’s a presence that the kids at the Café can depend on. “You know, just basically like a big brother. I try to help to the best of my abilities, you know?” Whatever they need him for, he’s there. Whether it’s cooking, maintenance, or minding the youth of the program, George is an active participant. He is also close friends with the director, Tracie Killar.  He describes their relationship as “tight like brother and sister”.

When George first became an AVillage member three years ago, he was also in a position that put him directly in touch with the community. As former manager of the South End Healthy Market, he enjoyed having face-to-face interactions with the people of the South End, selling produce, and creating connections. People still come up to him and ask him if he’s going to be selling produce during the next Healthy Market season. When George first joined AVillage, he felt like he was receiving as much as he was giving.

“Actually, as I was helping people AVillage was helping me also.”

When asked what his favorite thing about AVillage’s mission is, he said it’s the drive to help people to the best of the organization’s ability. George also praises AVillage’s growth since he joined three years ago.

“It’s amazing. I believe it’s like a miracle. It takes work and it’s just the progress, you know. It’s progress, not perfection.”

George definitely embodies his own advice. His activities include exercise at the YMCA, taking typing classes at the Capital South Campus Center, volunteering, and weekly bowling. Keeping this schedule allows him to keep his mind occupied. It’s about balancing what he can while he gives back to his community. Over twenty-two years, he’s witnessed a lot of change, both positive and negative.

He cites the Capital City Rescue Mission’s expanded capacity as a positive, marking his desire to simply see people getting the help they need.

However, George wants to see more places built for children in the community, instead of buildings focused solely on business development.  Among other changes he wants to see is a shift toward less environmental pollution in the South End, and less violence. He hasn’t touched a cigarette in seven years, but wonders to what extent the air pollution is affecting him.

George York is greatly observant, but doesn’t simply stand by and watch. He works toward an empowered South End every day. He is a man of his community, a man of principles and routine. He enjoys listening to Earth, Wind, and Fire, and playing cards. He keeps to himself, but makes it a core principle to give back. Yes, George is a man who lets his silence do the talking. But he knows the value of reaching out to those around him, and is part of a ripple effect of the positive impact of individuals doing what they can to touch the lives of community members. “Goodwill and a little heart go a long way. When you speak heart to heart, people understand better,” he says.

I think all members of the South End community would agree that we need more Georges in the world.

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