When the Memorial Day tornadoes hit in 2019, Angie Jones LeBlanc wanted to help.
She and her dad started by delivering water, but when they found out that the only grocery store in a part of Old North Dayton was destroyed, they set up in the parking lot and began to distribute food.
By the end of the summer, the West Carrollton woman had founded Genie’s Wish, a nonprofit organization that helps those in need throughout the Dayton area.
Genie’s Wish is about providing “more of a hand up than a handout,” said LeBlanc, 56.
What started as feeding residents in the middle of a disaster – more than 400 in a single day at its peak – soon branched into other activities, such as granting special birthday wishes for children. LeBlanc would organize donations to provide dinner, cake, presents and an activity for the celebrating child.
“Then COVID hit. It crippled us,” she said.
Now the organization helps with the Westwood Right Project, helping to revitalize the neighborhood. For several years LeBlanc has volunteered to clean up and maintain properties, plant trees and more, with help from Amp Lawn and Landscaping, the company owned by LeBlanc and her father, Roy Jones.
“Whatever they ask, we make sure it gets done,” she said.
LeBlanc puts the needs of others first, sometimes helping them out of her own pocket, said Teresa Parks, who nominated her friend and former neighbor as a Dayton Daily News Community Gem.
“She has got a really big heart for this community,” said Parks, who now lives in Dayton. “She wants to bring people together. She wants to help people.”
Parks can see the joy that organizing birthday parties for children brings LeBlanc, but she helps wherever and whomever she can.
“That’s one thing her friends tend to remind her of: ‘You can’t do it all, Angie,’” Parks said.
Genie’s Wish has a core group of six volunteers, some of whom she met assisting after the tornadoes. They consider each other family, LeBlanc said. No one, including LeBlanc, is paid.
“I feel that any money that people have given us should go to where it’s meant to go, not in anyone’s pocket,” she said, whether that’s put toward buying diapers for a mother in need, milk for a family or another purpose.
As restrictions brought on by the pandemic begin to taper, she is now looking toward the future of the organization. She anticipates working more with kids, such as with the birthday parties, but she also is trying to figure out where the needs are and how she can best meet them.
LeBlanc had her fifth back surgery just two weeks before beginning to help those impacted by the tornadoes, but she didn’t let it slow her down. Despite her back and other health issues, LeBlanc continues to try to leave her mark on the world.
“You only get one chance at this life, and I plan on trying to do it all before it’s my time to go,” she laughed.
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