Ruby Grant, West Philadelphia Block Captain Extraordinaire
By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – At 76 years old, Ruby Grant is just hitting her stride.
She’s been captain of her West Philadelphia block for nearly 30 years. She helped fight drug dealers, clean out vacant lots, protested unsavory business owners, and created a community garden.
“There were houses torn down,” says Grant. “We didn’t want them to become a dumping ground, so we petitioned to get control of the property.”
She has also mentored neighboring blockwatch groups and has helped win awards for homes in the 5400 block of Addison Street — some more than a century old — time and time again.
“I’m very proud of what we have achieved,” says Grant. “Some blocks look like war zones and drugs come in. But if you are a caring block — and you can tell — drug dealers won’t come onto your block. We here are a family here and you can see it.”
Grant says her block is safe and free of break-ins and robberies because of their hard work. But she doesn’t do it alone.
She enlists the help of her neighbors on Addison Street. This year, they participated in the Philadelphia Most Beautiful Block contest. It required a day of cleaning, painting, and sprucing up, and her neighbors stepped up, welcoming the challenge.
“I have a lot of respect in the community,” she says. “When I speak, everybody listens. They know that Ms. Grant will lead them to bigger and better things.”
But captaining a block isn’t Grant’s only claim to fame. She worked for years as a mental health counselor and then as a nanny for a prominent Philadelphia couple.
Although now retired, Grant has mentored generations of young people at Beulah Baptist Church, where she’s been a member for more than 25 years.
“I take a lot of youth to vacation bible school, I run the arts department,” says Grant. “I am a busy lady, but I love it! It makes me feel bubbly — it makes me feel needed.”
Grant’s reach stretches to hundreds, if not thousands. And she’s not slowing down. She’s recruited two junior block captains: her granddaughter, Saleeya Grant, 15, and neighbor Sa-Uuad McClain, 17.
“It makes me just feel wonderful to be able to bring people together,” she says, “and seeing young people succeed makes me feel like I had just a little to do with that.”
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