By Betsy Simon
Oct 12, 2019
Jennifer Mullen has a dream for the 12 Points area on Terre Haute’s north side that includes shops, a grocery store and entertainment in the old theater.
But her vision isn’t just in her head anymore. Since she and several Terre Haute residents decided to band together to clean up the 12 Points area, they have started 12 Points Revitalization, which officially received nonprofit status in June.
“Basically, it’s a group that comes together to revitalize a blighted area of the community,” said Mullen, a Terre Haute native and senior instructor of communication and professional experience coordinator at Indiana State University. “The thinking is that if we start somewhere, people will be inspired to clean up other parts of the community.”
An early hub of Terre Haute, Mullen said the 12 Points area was once almost a small city within Terre Haute, with places where people hung out, businesses setup shop and transportation ran through.
“It was a booming place from the 20’s to the 70’s and it’s so historical and a lot of the properties are on the National Historic Registry. It would be cool to bring that back to life,” she said. “I didn’t grow up in the 12 Points area, but my interest is in the local economy because it’s only two miles from Indiana State’s campus.”
A complete revitalization is years in the making, but Mullen’s long-term vision would be to restore the area to its heyday and make it a place for students and residents to grocery shop or partake in entertainment.
“But, first, it needs cleaned up and rehabbed,” she said. “We’ve done one fundraiser so far and raised $4,000 to help continue clean up the area. We are working on getting grant money for various projects while we continue picking up litter. We also had a mural painted and got students involved in painting the wall around the artwork, which we hope to do more of as the project progresses.”
Mullen teamed up with Karen Long and Susan Mardis, two residents who started the 12 Points cleanup initiative, to help clean up the area and they started monthly meetings for volunteers.
“I first met Jennifer Mullen at a Terre Haute Positive Meeting at the Vigo County Public Library in December 2018. She impressed me as a very positive and energetic person and I believe I talked about the effort Susan Mardis and I were putting into cleaning up and bringing community pride back to the 12 Points area in Terre Haute,” Long said. “A few of us with ties to 12 Points thought we should have a meeting to discuss more ideas for the area. We ended up posting on Facebook a month or so later. Jennifer stepped up, scheduled a meeting and we had almost 30 people there. I was astounded because I expected maybe five people”
The cleanup effort is a volunteer initiative, which includes the nearly 100 people on the group’s email registry and attend the monthly meetings that started in February.
“12 points is not my neighborhood. It’s not my baby, but I think I’m good at organizing things and making agendas because I’m a teacher,” Mullen said. “People have such good memories of that place, so it’s easy to get people involved. We have a trunk or treat coming up for neighborhood in October. We wanted to bring entertainment and enjoyment to community and restore pride to the area.”
Because of her efforts, Mullen was nominated by Long and Mardis for Tribune-Star’s Women in Business program, an annual recognition of six women in the Wabash Valley who demonstrate strong leadership skills, overcome obstacles and are passionate about their work and community.
“Jennifer is an active person, not a ‘moaner and groaner’,” Long said. “When she sees a problem, she asks what she can do to help solve it. She is an inspiration to me and I hope other Terre Haute residents will begin to follow her example.”
Mullen, who learned she was selected in mid-August, and the other five recipients will be featured in the October edition of Terre Haute Living and honored during a breakfast at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College on Oct. 16.
“I didn’t know about (this award), but Susan Mardis asked for my resume because she and Karen Long wanted to nominate me,” said Mullen, whose parents will be in attendance at the breakfast. “I was excited and honored to be named to be with so many amazing people in the community.”
In addition to her responsibilities as co-founder of 12 Points Revitalization, Mullen also is involved with Trees, Inc. and Keep Terre Haute Beautiful, is orientation advisor for Terre Haute Rotary, is part of United Way’s Neighborhood Development Impact Council, and will begin serving as a board member with Camp Navigate in 2020.
Mullen has more than lived up to her belief that “you need to make where you live your home”.
“If you see a problem, it does no good to sit around and complain about it. It makes more sense to me to try to find solutions, and that includes finding people who are on the same mission,” she said. “Someone told me one time, “Jennifer, if you want to make change you’re going to have to be rich. Well, I do not have a lot of money but I have a rich heart, so I’m starting there.”