City honors humble South End mover and shaker

Grover Haynes, 76, a longtime Lakewood citizen, was recently honored as a recipient of the citywide Jefferson Award. This prestigious award recognizes the contributions of citizen heroes who quietly make a difference in improving the lives of others.

Though retired, Haynes keeps a schedule that most working stiffs couldn't begin to maintain. This tall, unassuming gentleman is president of the Lakewood-Seward Park Community Association and has been for the past 10-plus years. He is a member of the Rainier Historical Society, he serves on the Municipal League Transportation and Issues Committee, and he is president of the Genesee Merchants' Association. Additionally, he is involved in the Columbia Lakewood Community Church as president and as executive director.

In the past, Haynes has served as the president of the South End Crime Prevention Council for 10 years. The council was involved with cleaning up the Columbia City area in the late 1980s. He had previously served on the City Light Advisory Committee until the new superintendent disbanded it.

Over coffee, Haynes reflected on his life and how he came to be so passionate about doing community work.

"My family and I moved to the Lakewood neighborhood in 1965. At the time the minister of the Lakewood Community Church visited us and said to me that, basically, when you move into a new area you should be involved in the community and help to make it a stronger place," Haynes remembered. "Well, that idea has always stuck with me and so that is what I did. I am committed to community service."

Haynes, who is originally from Louisiana, noted how the southern community he grew up in took care of his father right up to the end of his life. That made an impact on Haynes.

"The people in the Louisiana community always took care of my dad so that, too, has stuck with me," noted Haynes with appreciation. "It's made me want to give back, and doing so has paid dividends."

Haynes has been married to Wanda for nearly 51 years, and has lived in the Lakewood neighborhood for 42 years. Together they raised Glenna, 50, and Gerilyn, 41. They are also the proud grandparents to five wonderful children: Derilyn, Denelle, Derrick, Arik, and Alexandra.


Haynes has seen a great deal of change in the Rainier Valley, particularly regarding housing prices. He and his wife bought their Lakewood home, a 3-bedroom, 2-bath place, in 1965. About the time they were negotiating the sale, Seattle had the 1965 earthquake. Their final sale price on the home was in the $20,000 range; amazing, given today's soaring prices.

As a 42-year resident of the South End, Haynes finds many things about the area simply delightful.

"I love the access to downtown, to Renton, and to Southcenter. The parks are beautiful, and I walk Seward Park each day," Haynes said. "There is a great spirit of cooperation in the area as well. People really roll up their sleeves and start working on things."

What Haynes isn't quick to share is that he is very much a community mover and shaker, the one who helps others take the initiative and get the job done. Haynes laughs often and has great stories to tell, usually at his own expense.

He recalled the woman at his church who was chided by her husband to "just say no" if Grover asks you to "do something else."

"The woman was having a hard time saying no to my requests for assistance with this or that project," Haynes shared. "Well, I needed another favor, and asked the husband if he'd help and he said yes. He couldn't say no, either."

In terms of community involvement, one difference Haynes noted is in today's generation.

"Today's younger generation is different," Haynes asserted. "They have to have two incomes to make ends meet, so they are a little more self-centered. Any free time they get they want to spend it with their family, which is understandable."

Overall, Haynes feels that the changes that have occurred in the South End are good for the area.

"Over time, new people come in and they complement the area," Haynes said. "It's fresh blood, and that is good."

But Haynes is not happy about the new Downtown Emergency Service Center housing development slated for Hillman City. It plans to serve the chronically alcoholic and mentally ill. It will be located at the corner of 42nd Avenue South and Rainier Avenue South.

"The problem isn't with the people who will move into the facility," he noted. "The problem is that there will be too many, given our area which is slowly getting stabilized. Besides, it is a matter of fairness. The city should not be overburdening a community that is overburdened already. These centers can be spread out in other neighborhoods, such as Laurelhurst or Magnolia."

As far as the area's gentrification, Haynes waxes philosophical.

"Gentrification is economy driven," Haynes said. "Money still talks and the whole issue is a tough one. We are becoming another San Francisco. It's not that I am against certain people. Not at all. It's just economics - who can afford to buy in this area now and who can not?

"Look at the so-called affordable houses like those offered at MLK and Myrtle Streets. They are selling for $390,000. If this is affordable, then heaven help us!"

Haynes noted that there is an ongoing fight with the city where the leaders want to condemn so-called blighted areas to get properties targeted for eminent domain.

"The South End was once considered a blighted area," Haynes asserted. "Now there are sales of lots on South Alaska Street in the 3900 block that are selling for $290,000. This is blighted?"


Haynes is certainly zealous in his love of the South End. His method of motivating others?

"I use persuasive action," Haynes said with a chuckle.

It gets the job done, and he concedes that others would describe him as someone who is cooperative. Haynes is one who can be counted on, one whom others can depend on.

His secret to longevity and activism? He quoted Mae West: "Keep breathing."

"Also I am a bit of a pack rat," Haynes said. "When I was growing up we had to make do with what we had. Now I have every tool you can think of: just exactly the right ones to fix the car, the lawn mower, the fridge, you name it."

To Haynes, the secret to being happy and staying involved is knowing this: there are more good people than bad ones, and that keeps people like himself going, he noted with a contented smile.

"My philosophy is to live and let live," Haynes said. "I want to contribute whatever is possible to a worthwhile cause or project that benefits the community."

To be sure, Haynes is emphatic that being a good community member is not just paying one's taxes.

"Being a good citizen is getting out there and helping those areas where help is needed," Haynes asserted. "We all need to roll up our sleeves and give a little bit more back to the place where we live."

Seward Park writer Mary Sanford may be reached via[[In-content Ad]]