Jackson Patterson is all heart. A proud West-Sider, Jackson can appear intimidating to some – not because of the many tattoos he’s collected over the years, but because the passion in his gaze is clear and impossible to ignore. Jackson has no problem maintaining extended, direct eye contact while he tells you about the community he serves. That kind of passion is hard to find and even harder to ignore. It’s the kind of passion that has the power to move mountains. Which is exactly what Jackson aims to do for his neighbors in Harmar.
A reformed felon, Jackson has a storied past with more than a few chapters outlined in said tattoos. Born and raised in Harmar, his childhood was shadowed with negative experiences and as he grew up, run-ins with law enforcement were more frequent. Those whom he used to see as the enemy, however, he now views as allies. And the energy he used to put into breaking the law, he now pours endlessly into building up his community, through MOV Rebound for Kids and Main Street West.
While Jackson’s memories of law enforcement as a youth were mostly negative, he is determined to change that narrative for the kids in his neighborhood today. He reached out to local law enforcement earlier this year to launch the MOV Rebound for Kids program. Throughout summer months, Jackson spent most of his evenings at Flanders Field playing basketball with local kids and officers. Area youth looked forward to playing ball with Jackson and the local law enforcement every week, building positive relationships that otherwise might not have formed. As momentum grew, he teamed up with The Right Path for Washington County to host block parties at the park for local families. The first party was a hit, with kids and officers alike sporting painted faces and giant grins.
Through MOV Rebound, Jackson hopes to break down those barriers in where he grew up so that neighborhood kids are encouraged to make better decisions than he did himself. He’s worked hard over the past few years to earn the trust of West Side parents by coaching youth basketball and baseball. Memories of Jackson’s past are now being replaced by his ever-present commitment to his community.
It’s great to have people believe in the same potential that I do.
At the same time that Jackson was launching MOV Rebound, he joined forces with fourth ward city councilman Geoff Schenkel help lead Main Street West, a committee of Marietta Main Street focused on revitalizing the West Side of Downtown Marietta. By teaming up with Geoff, Jackson hopes to give the people of Harmar a voice and a way to share their dreams and desires for the West Side. Since the first Community Dinner held in early July, Jackson and Geoff have continued to host monthly meetings with the community to gather feedback, share progress and sustain momentum.
“It’s great to have people believe in the same potential that I do,” said Jackson. Jackson talks a lot about building hope back into the community and setting goals together to make dreams a reality. “With enough hands, any puzzle is possible. It’s about winning the hearts and minds of the people, it’s about inviting them to the table. Even if they only witness progress being made, it will leave an impression.”
It’s hard to determine exactly how many hours Jackson has poured into Main Street West, between meetings, going door-to-door, planning and hosting neighborhood events for families and local kids, and leading volunteer clean-up efforts on the West Side. In true Hamilton fashion, the man is non-stop. This Saturday, Geoff and Jackson will lead a group of more than 60 volunteers, including students from Harmar Elementary School and Marietta College, in a widespread clean-up effort to tidy up their side of town.
“What I admire most in Jackson is a combination of traits: his hunger for learning and his willingness to push himself out of his comfort zone,” said Geoff. “Those combined make a risk taker in the best sense of the phrase. What he does with that combination of traits is work hard to bring others along with him so that others have a better chance for an improved quality of life.”
Jackson’s dedication to his neighborhood is making an impact in more ways than one. Jackson tasks himself with protecting neighborhood children by personally picking up and disposing of unsafe items found at Flanders Field and around the Harmar area. He checks on his neighbors and makes sure they are aware of upcoming meetings and events. Jackson continues to inspire everyone he comes in contact with, but most importantly, his neighbors, who for years felt isolated and neglected.
“On the West Side, people don’t always seem hopeful or happy. But more and more, I see people happy to be together, enjoying each other’s company,” said Geoff. “People are letting their guard down.”
One person at a time, Jackson is instilling hope and resiliency in his community, creating a legacy that he hopes will outlast and outlive him – and inspire one of these kids to someday start an after-school basketball program for children in Harmar, decades from now.