By Christian Meininger
The Cincinnati Herald
“Right now, we’re swimming on top,” said Sandra Jones Mitchell, president of Avondale Community Council about her optimism for the community. Mitchell compared the community to a swim team. “When you’re on a team. You want to be able to dry off, get back in that water and try it again. On a swim team, you can always come back. And you can get better and better and better.”
Mitchell was recently elected president after 40 years of involvement on the council. She succeeds Patricia Milton, a dedicated, longtime council president, who moved to Atlanta.
Mitchell joined the council at age 17, and she said that she had a positive outlook about the possibilities for improvement. Mitchell said that she has a unique perspective because she has seen numerous leadership changes on the council. — Each leader of the council had a different agenda during their time as president.
The Avondale council’s motto is “strengthening Avondale, empowering families.” Mitchell said the best way to accomplish this is to increase involvement, to find areas that match the skills of community members.
The council asks, “How do you help people feel connected?” she said. One of the council’s principal goals is to add 500 new community members. “People must be involved, people must be engaged and people need to ask questions,” Mitchell said about community building.
Avondale is well positioned, Mitchell believes, because of the legacy left by previous residents. The first African American residents in Avondale moved to the area in the 1920s and 1930s. Mitchell said that they were “resourceful and determined to have a better life for themselves. They took great pride in their homes.”
The Avondale Community Council held an important meeting in 2005 led by then–president Jim King. More than 200 community members gathered to plan for Avondale’s future. The meeting led to the foundation of the Avondale Redevelopment Corporation. Some of the ideas discussed at that meeting continue to be worked on today.
Mitchell said that Avondale is a busy community, and its strength lies in its residents. She also spoke about the importance of institutions and community partnerships. Mitchell said that the perception of the community does not match the reality. “There are a lot of people in Avondale doing pretty well,” she said.
“We have a great board that is willing to help,” Mitchell said about the Avondale Community Council. When she first joined the council, she thought she could accomplish many of her goals on her own, but she quickly realized the opposite. “It takes a team to make something happen,” she said.
According to a biography of Sandra Jones Mitchell, she is a professional advocate for senior citizens. In 1975, her first job was preparing hot meals for seniors citizens at Washington Park Elementary School. In 1976-1977, she worked at Cincinnati Veteran’s Administration Hospital assisting the elderly and escorting them to their doctors’ appointments within hospital.
In 1986, she worked in an Avondale nursing home as an activity coordinator. In 1988, Mitchell began her career with Hamilton County Developmental Disabilities Services, where she continued assisting individuals with developmental disabilities, by helping them stay connected to the community.
In 1993, she co-founded Serving Older Adults through Changing Times (SO-ACT) along with the late Sandra L. Massey. SO-ACT is a non-profit organization created to serve and advocate for older adults for the right to aging in the communities they call home. When SO-ACT was started, Avondale had the second–largest senior population in Cincinnati.
Mitchell is a tireless advocate on behalf of seniors and believes they are essential and vital members of the community.
For several years Mitchell has been a part of the American Society on Aging, an organization well connected to aging issues nationally.
She has addressed loneliness and isolation within the aging population and the effects it has on their health. She strongly believes by offering companionship, community activities, building relationships and encouragement allows the seniors to stay engaged and just might prevent the ongoing spread of these documented major health issues.
The love and passion she has for older adults had a major impact on Sandra attending the College of Mount Saint Joseph to earn a bachelor degree in gerontology in 2003. She is continuing her education toward her master’s degree in Gerontology from Miami University.
“It is our duty to honor the wisdom of our elders, respect their life experiences and treat them as community gems,’’ she said.
She has been a member of the Corinthian Baptist Church since 2000 and recognized for numerous awards for her advocacy services throughout the community.
The wife of Robert L. Mitchell, mother to Theodore and grandmother of Nyia and Angel, Mitchell recently retired from Hamilton County Developmental Disabilities Services after 30 years of services.