The Meridian Kessler Neighborhood Association is a volunteer nonprofit neighborhood organization comprised of residents, businesses, schools, churches, and organizations. Founded in 1965 and located in Meridian Kessler, MKNA is in its 50th year of serving the community.
History of Meridian Kessler Neighborhood Association
In the spring of 1965, the first African-American family moved into the Meridian Kessler neighborhood. Encouragement by Rev. Gerald Johnson of the (then) Meridian Heights Presbyterian Church, a group of residents “deeply devoted to our area and to justice” met to discuss the formation of a neighborhood group which would:
- Bring about a closer relationship between all people and provide a service for newcomers.
- Monitor zoning and guard against illegal conversion of single-family housing.
- Maintain quality schools in the area.
- Provide adequate municipal services for all residents.
In early meetings there was prolonged discussion about the boundaries of the proposed new neighborhood. The south and west boundaries were not debatable (38th and Meridian Streets, respectively), because they adjoined existing organized neighborhoods. However, the northem boundary was difficult to determine. At first it was set at 46th Street, then tentatively moved to 54th Street. By the time the constitution and by-laws were finalized, however, those who maintained that a larger group of residents would be more effective politically, succeeded in getting the boundary extended north to Kessler Boulevard.
The name of the new association, based on two of the boundary streets, was coined at that time. Large posters were distributed to the area shopping corners inviting everyone to the first general meeting on June 2, 1965.
At that gathering a sizeable crowd heard Ross Vogelesang, former Director of the Metropolitan Planning Committee, speak of the benefits of neighborhood associations, their purpose, goals, development & design. Prophetically, he discussed neighborhood conversion and rehabilitation, then being considered for the first time in Indianapolis. He pointed out that planning commissions usually hear what people are against, rather than what they want. He suggested that a neighborhood association could petition the city government for attention on specific matters.
Thus from the beginning was the groundwork laid for the positive accomplishments which would become the hallmark of Meridian-Kessler actively. Its success owes much to the vision and dedication of the original steering committee – particularly to its catalyst, Rev. Johnson. Other members were: Pat Ulen, Betty Haerle, Shirley Hook, Ted Boehm, Rev. David Lawler (former pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church), Lois Otten, George Smith, Marie Robb, and Catherine Brown. Two members who lived in adjoining neighborhoods provided invaluable counsel in the early stages; they were Mr. George Spriggs and Mrs. Mary Staten.
Learn more about the founding of MKNA. Read the article “Some things never change, but sometimes things get even better” by Kathleen Berry Graham, in the Fall 2015 edition of our magazine MK Spark.
As the Meridian~Kessler Neighborhood Association turns 50 years old, Ted Boehm, one of the original founders, and a few key leaders remember the uncertain times, toast the vibrancy of today and await what might come next.