Forest Manor Multi-Service Center, Regina Marsh

“I’d rather be wearing my jeans and be playing basketball with the kids than doing all this grown-up stuff!” — Regina Marsh

Regina Marsh doesn’t like to have her picture taken. She’s uncomfortable in the suit and fancy hairstyle needed to “look official” for her photo.

“I love my job,” she says, tugging at the collar of her blazer. “But I’d rather be wearing my jeans and be playing basketball with the kids than doing all this grown-up stuff!”

The “grown-up stuff” Marsh oversees at the Forest Manor Multi-Service Center is considerable and, in many cases, life-saving. For the past 30 years, the center has worked to establish an organized system to address the human and social needs of the Forest Manor community. Established by area residents in March 1973, and originally sponsored and operated by the City of Indianapolis, Marsh and her co-workers facilitate holistic outreach programs for children and adults, including GED classes, 4-H, drama workshops and exercise and aerobics classes. In recent years, HIV prevention education and testing, on-site food pantry assistance and community referral resources have become major thrusts of the center and its $5 million annual budget.

This past year, Marsh and Forest Manor used their energy and passion to serve families affected by Hurricane Katrina. Marsh brought together local churches, community leaders and the Red Cross to provide case management for 60 families. On one day alone, she led a live broadcast effort with Radio One and raised $14,000 that was shared with Red Cross and UWCI to be directed for families and their needs.

“It’s been a crazy year,” Marsh says with a grin. “I turned 40, I had major surgery, I traveled to South Africa and I became a mother. But I love this place, I love these kids. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

Marsh’s commitment is welcome news to the hundreds of Indianapolis residents who have come to depend on the programs at the Forest Manor Multi-Service Center. Before- and after-school child care services, teen mentoring, homelessness prevention and a senior wellness program are all vital to the lives of those who have come to depend on Forest Manor for help in tough times.

Helping her neighbors, serving her community and mothering just about every child she comes into contact with are all part of a day’s work for the busy director. “These are the things that really matter,” according to Regina Marsh. And we couldn’t agree more.

— Laura McPhee

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