Starting out I can only say Muriel Simmons was the Grand Dame of all of the Phillips Community. I met Muriel in 1998 when I was assigned the Phillips neighborhood for NRP prior to the establishment of the 4 new Phillips neighborhoods in the early 2000’s. She was the head of the ad hoc community committee to continue implementation of the sacred NRP program. Amidst the chaotic atmosphere that existed at the time she was the voice of reason and the force of calm.
Once Phillips made the decision to become 4 new neighborhoods Muriel emerged as the leader and force to be reckoned with in the newly formed Phillips West. She wasted no time in getting to work. No, was not an answer Muriel accepted. If you showed her a door she would find the window and walk right through it. She brought neighbors together to form the new Phillips West Neighborhood Organization and brought in help to establish a new 501c3 Corporation developing a mission statement and by-laws.
Muriel established relationships with the heads of all the major institutions in the neighborhood to build partnerships that would prove to enhance the lives of both the infrastructure and peoples lives in the neighborhood as witnessed by the many projects varying non-profit and for profit corporations implemented.
Muriel’s goal was to have the 27th street block club host the largest National Night Out party in the city and she accomplished that goal. She contributed her efforts with her snow cone and candy cotton machine. She encouraged large and small institutions within the neighborhood to partner in this effort and they came forward to make the event a success every year.
In the late 1990’s Muriel started what she called the “Winter Social” in her living room with only a handful of people. The winter social has grown to become a community partnership and last winter was held in the Lutheran Social Services Changing Lives Center with an attendance of over 300 people. It is the social event of the Phillips West neighborhood.
Muriel’s advocacy also extended to individuals in the neighborhood. She worked tirelessly to help many individuals get off the streets, into treatment and get a fighting chance to turn their lives around. She had a very special relationship with V.J. Smith, the formidable man in charge of MADDADS.
Muriel was a gracious and entertaining woman. Many of us had the opportunity to visit her in the grand Victorian house she made home. I remember many a front porch session talking and laughing about our kids, the neighborhood and the world.
Muriel will be missed. She has big shoes to fill. I can only hope that her memory will encourage others to remain involved, get involved and keep her legacy going.
For more stories and eulogies of Muriel Simmons, see: