Charlene Anderson, better known as Grandma Char, is truly a light of hope to the people around her. She encourages drug addicts to come clean, acts as a guardian to troubled children and says kind words to criminals. But Anderson is no counselor or psychologist. In fact, she has been a crossing guard for 20 years, including the past five years at Strawberry Mansion High School on the corner of Ridge Avenue and Dauphin Street. But when it comes to her occupation, Grandma Char goes above and beyond her job description.
I first came to meet Anderson dancing and waving joyously to pedestrians on her street corner. It was a gloomy and depressing day, but there Grandma Char was cheering people up on a rainy day. Strawberry Mansion High School had dismissed its students and everyone wanted to talk to Grandma Char about their day.
“I just talk to them,” Anderson said. “Sometimes all people need is someone to talk to to lift them up.” It was clear why Char is so loved by the community. “Even on a bad day, you wouldn’t know what I’m going through because it is not about me,” she said. “I love these kids and this community with all my heart, God placed me here to make a difference.”
When asked what keeps her spirits high and always in a good mood she said, “Baby, when you have the love of the Lord within you, you just can’t help but be happy.” Indeed she was happy and unlike other crossing guards she did not let the area affect her. “When you know the Lord, you change your atmosphere, you don’t let your atmosphere change you,” Grandma Char said. “Wherever I am, I see beauty.”