NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Good neighbors are hard to come by. Neighbors like Ms. JoAn Winston are a true blessing.
JoAn’s love for her neighborhood, and all those who live there, is what makes her truly remarkable.
“When I first came in the neighborhood there were kids all over. The neighborhood was full of kids,” JoAn said.
A lot can change in ten years, but one thing remains the same in her North Little Rock neighborhood – Ms. JoAn.
“My heart is to the community,” she explained. “I watched kids in here grow up. If I see wrong things or not positive things, I go out there and reach out.”
For the past decade, she has made it her mission to keep the kids in her neighborhood out of trouble. Much of her time was spent volunteering her time at the Salvation Army in her neighborhood, until it shut down.
“I tried to get help from the mayor’s office, every part of North Little Rock to help me keep the Salvation Army open so I can keep the children off the streets, but all I got was a baseball bat and a soccer ball,” Ms. JoAn said.
Often times, she has dipped into her own pocket to make sure no child goes without.
“I stepped up and would go, ‘Here, go get some suckers. Here, go get some chips,’ stuff like that,” Ms. JoAn said. “Then they would come around, ‘Ms. Joan, you got some chips?’ and there I go passing out chips.”
Even the strays aren’t immune to Ms. JoAn’s kindness.
“I give to the racoons, the squirrels, the puppies and the cats,” she said. “I feed them Popeyes, BBQ chicken. I got a box of Ramen Noodles. Neighbors are like, ‘Why is your trash not torn up?’ I say, ‘Because that’s my family.’”
Her kind heart has dealt with unimaginable pain. In 2015, she lost her son to gun violence.
“People say they know how I feel. You don’t know how it feels until you lose a child,” Ms. JoAn said.
In January of 2020, her husband passed away after a battle with COVID-19.
“My husband couldn’t fight it. He couldn’t fight it,” she recalled.
Yet still Ms. JoAn gives, determined to not let violence win.
“I love this neighborhood and I love these children, and I pour my heart out to them,” she said. “If you can use this finger for a trigger finger, why not turn a page in a book and get and education?”
She never hesitates to open her door, or her heart, to a neighbor in need.
“I’m not the perfect person, but I have a heart. I have a heart and I step up when I need to step up,” Ms. JoAn said. “I know when I need to get out there and help others and I will. I will.”