Geneva Hayden wears many different volunteer hats. From tutoring neighborhood children on Syracuse's south side to turning her living room into a library for children, Hayden gives unselfishly of her time to uplift children in her area. Her efforts have run the gamut from fundraisers to carpools and her work for the children of Syracuse is no small feat. A $1,200 grant from the Central New York Community Foundation enabled Hayden to build a library in her home. In the library, the children have access to 300 books and a computer. During their visits, the kids can get help with their homework. Each child must write a report at the end of the library visit.
With the help of her husband and four children, Hayden established a group called Communities United to Rebuild Neighborhoods. Under Hayden's leadership, the group has organized a system of block captains that direct a neighborhood cleanup initiative. Hayden makes it her personal mission to revitalize a neighborhood that has succumbed to the pitfalls of drugs and violence. One of the organization's projects was the beautification of a vacant lot filled with smelly trash and used as a shortcut to a local store. In May 1995, Hayden acquired the lot through a city program and worked with another community service group to clean up the lot. The lot is now called Village Garden, where crops such as collard greens, tomatoes, and broccoli grow, and is the direct result of Hayden's civic-minded action.
A retired kindergarten teacher, she calls daily upon her desire to end the cycle of poverty, violence, and teenage pregnancy that affects her neighborhood to inspire her service to the community. She takes a young boy and girl into her care every morning as she rides them to McKinley-Brighton Magnet School. She wants to make sure that they are present in school and accounted for when the bell rings. After learning that the boy had 30 absences and was habitually late, she took it upon herself to assume the responsibility for he and his sister's education.
However, children are not the only recipients of Hayden's unceasing support. She teaches skills necessary for adults to be better parents. Seven families rely on Hayden to help them raise intelligent, independent children. Her assistance is a form of empowerment for these families. She not only lectures to them about the importance of education, but she also practices what she preaches. Hayden returned to school in 1997 to study for her high school equivalency diploma. Leading by example, Geneva Hayden turns her anger at neighborhood decay into action and results.