COMMUNITY GEMS: Dayton neighborhood leader advocates for neighbors

Leslie Sheward has been president of the Twin Towers Neighborhood Association for 15 years

A community is what its residents make of it, Leslie Sheward said.

“You don’t have to move to live in a better neighborhood, you just have to get involved,” said Sheward, who has been president of the Twin Towers Neighborhood Association for 15 years.

Sheward, 68, has lived in Twin Towers, a Dayton neighborhood her whole life, and she has no intention of leaving. She has watched generations grow up there, and the neighborhood is “enrooted” in her, she said.

Her neighbors don’t flaunt, she said. Instead they share and they help each other out. There is a real sense of community.

“The people of Twin Towers have something much more rich than money,” she said. “They have heart smarts.”

Sheward is a long-time advocate for Twin Towers, and no volunteer community leader is more passionate about the well-being of those who live in her neighborhood, said Jan Lepore-Jentleson, who nominated Sheward as a Dayton Daily News Community Gem.

Sheward has built strong relationships with city officials and works with them to solve problems. She takes on any issue that threatens the neighborhood, including slum landlords, abandoned homes and more.

“She is certainly one of those people who won’t give up a fight to improve outcomes for her community,” Lepore-Jentleson said. “She’ll pursue it until the community gets what it needs.”



Lepore-Jentleson, who is executive director of the nonprofit East End Community Services and its sister organization, East End Neighborhood Development Corporation, has known Sheward for about 20 years.

Sheward sits on the board for EENDC, and Lepore-Jentleson said the organizations work closely with her to gather community input.

If Sheward sees an injustice that impacts Twin Towers, she will take action, Lepore-Jentleson said. She will guide her neighbors and follow-up to make sure the issue is resolved.

She called Sheward fearless and passionate, as well as eloquent as she speaks before city officials. She also is proactive on many issues, from crime to zoning.

“She’s just not afraid to advocate for her community. I just so admire that,” she said.

Sheward said she comes from a line of community leaders. Her mother and grandmother “glued together a group of people” when U.S. Route 35 split the area in the 1960s.

She has been there during the highs and the lows in the neighborhood, and she said that progress has been made through partnerships with other organizations.

“Each organization doesn’t have to be its own wheel,” she said, adding that they can be spokes in a single wheel as they learn to work together.

Sheward is seeing reinvestments in the neighborhood, but there is still work to be done. Neighborhood associations continue to be important, she said.

“It gives people a sense of having a voice, to know that their opinion counts,” Sheward said.

A lot is happening in this neighborhood of almost 3,000 residents, and she is optimistic about the future.

“Twin Towers is like a gem in the rough,” she said. “It’s not a diamond yet, but one day it might be that diamond.”

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