SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Pauletta Dunn is KOLR10’s next Jefferson Award recipient, nominated for nearly 40 years of service in the Grant Beach neighborhood.
She’s a woman as colorful as her community, and as strong as the pillars on which Grant Beach was built. With style as eclectic as a Christmas tree in February, Dunn was hard to miss when she laid roots in 1980.
“When I moved into this neighborhood 38 years ago it was on the decline, big time,” Dunn said.
But they say the best investments to make are in children. If that’s true, Grant Beach can thank Dunn for her hefty contribution.
“When you get nine kids through the school, they remember who you are, for no other reason than you had nine kids,” Dunn said. “They range from 24, to my oldest would’ve turned 42 this year.”
Those were just her biological kids. Dunn also ran an in-home daycare for several years, and raised other children through kinship care. After all, she says the neighborhood needed a little youth.
“If you’re familiar with neighborhood associations, if you ever walk into a meeting, it’s like the old people class in church,” Dunn said.
Like any mother, when something needed fixing, Dunn fixed it. She started up a sports league right there in the neighborhood. To keep it self-sustaining, there is a small price for concessions. Even that won’t break the bank.
“People come up and they’ll say ‘I need popcorn’ and they’ll say ‘a quarter?’ We’re either really stupid or really nice, but we did the math and we’re still making money,” Dunn said.
And when the neighborhood needed cleaning, Dunn got it done.
“We did those before there was ever city money for that,” she said. “I remember when the city called me and says, ‘Pauletta, cleanups are in the city budget. You are now a line item in the city budget.'”
Now, she maintains Hovey House, a public space for after school tutoring and $1 piano lessons. While names aren’t mentioned, Dunn admits she’s had her favorites.
“There’s this group of kids. They’re always the ones in trouble, but they’re not really in trouble in trouble. To me those are my favorite kids because they have personality,” Dunn said.
Ultimately, that’s what she found to be the cure for an exhausted neighborhood, but nothing big hoops and bigger ambition couldn’t fix.