Two years ago, Olivia Holden was looking for a place to take her complaint about cars parking on a neighbor's lawn near her home on Buckeye Street, where she and her husband have lived for over 20 years.
Mrs. Holden, who then worked as a computer instructor at the University of Toledo, took her complaint to the Lagrange Village Council.
She got the resolution she hoped for, and discovered a new interest in neighborhood work. Last month, she was named board president of the Lagrange Development Corp., which works closely with the village council.
Her evolution has led her from a representative of her neighborhood in the village council to working her way into larger roles with the community development corporation.
“I was married into the neighborhood,” Mrs. Holden said. “The village council didn't have a representative for the area. [Then Lagrange Development board president] Aggie Dahar asked me to join.
“She instilled in me that you can do something positive in the neighborhood. I like the Lagrange area because it's an active neighborhood. The neighbors are working together.”
Ms. Dahar, a businesswoman in the Lagrange area, said Mrs. Holden's communication skills and friendly disposition have won over neighborhood supporters and opponents alike.
“She has fine people skills,” Ms. Dahar said. “People seem to open up to her and they feel comfortable around her. You could say her sincerity really shows. It's one of the qualities that has made her effective in a lot of aspects on the board.”
Ms. Dahar said that the new corporation president will have to be brought up to speed with the corporation's many programs and her role in them, but added that she believes she will excel like she has in her other positions,”
“There is always a learning curve,” Ms. Dahar said. “But once she gets over that and develops her comfort zone, she'll be a very capable president.”
Mrs. Holden is the first African-American president of the corporation, but she and other members said that shouldn't sound so unusual for this area known for its strong Polish ties.
“Times have changed and I think Lagrange reflects that change,” Mrs. Holden said. “There are some people who are enthusiastic about it and some who said they don't want to see it. I want to be a president that works for everyone. My only goal is to make the Lagrange Development Corp. better.”
Terry Glazer, the corporation's executive director, said the community has responded to Mrs. Holden's leadership and she has proven to be a strong advocate for the neighborhood.
“Olivia is a resident and was involved in our village council,” Mr. Glazer said. “I mean she got involved and really became a leader. She's an excellent spokesman and people in the neighborhood respect her. We find a lot of our leadership that way, right from the neighborhood, and it's great to see them develop the way Olivia has.”
Mrs. Holden played an active role with the annual Lagrange Polish Festival and was secretary and vice president for Lagrange Development before she was chosen as president.
“I love people,” Mrs. Holden said. “I believe in helping and facilitating change to better the community. I feel like I have so much more to learn.”
Along with her duties as president, she is active in the corporation's Weed and Seed program, a federal program that combines community policing with neighborhood activities to develop a safer environment.
“There is a real sense of community here,” Mrs. Holden said. “People take pride in their neighborhood and it starts a domino effect where other people start to look after their homes and the neighborhood.”
Mrs. Holden's full-time job is director of minority business services for the Toledo Area Chamber of Commerce, assisting African-Americans, Hispanics, and other minorities in starting and maintaining their businesses and guiding them to useful resources.
Her daughter, Rebecca Holden, 16, is a sophomore at Notre Dame Academy, and she has a 36-year-old son who lives in Forth Worth, Texas.