Anthony Ellison grew up in Paducah, raised primarily by his grandmother. From the time he was in third grade “Granny” would get him out of bed at 2 a.m. to go with her as she delivered newspapers. Then he would come home, crawl back into bed until it was time to get up and go to school. Anthony loved school and loved playing sports. Baseball and the determination to be the first member of his family to walk across the stage and graduate from high school certainly kept him going.
But as life sometimes changes, things took a negative turn for Anthony. Early in his high school career, his grandmother was no longer able to care for him. So Anthony moved in with his 18 year old sister who had an apartment in Elmwood Court. The structure and protection that his grandmother had provided him with all those years was no longer in place. In his first year with his sister, she was arrested on drug charges and Anthony was forced to bounce from family to family for the next few years. Something within Anthony was driven to complete high school and he graduated from Paducah Tilghman in 1998.
Now a grown man, Anthony thought that he had arrived. He had achieved the one thing that no one in his family had achieved before him. However, Anthony had no positive male role models in his life and received very little guidance from the adults who lived in his neighborhood. There was no one to help him to discover the path to the next phase of life, no one who was providing the wisdom and encouragement he needed to pursue college or a good job.
It wasn’t long before Anthony found himself traveling the same road that his parents and so many of his relatives had pursued. It wasn’t long before he found himself with his own criminal record.
Then one day Anthony had a wake up call. He noticed that his young son was beginning to display the same bad habits that Anthony himself was unintentionally teaching him. It was a reality that Anthony did not like and wanted to change. So he began to work on himself and to get his life in a better place.
“The more positive my life became, the more people began to look up to me,” Anthony said.
It felt good to no longer be the man in trouble with the law, but rather the man who inspired other young men and women in his neighborhood to pursue good things. As he began to make changes in his own life, he also became more aware of the needs in the neighborhood that surrounded him. One day, while standing with a friend outside at Elmwood Court, Anthony had an idea for how he and his friends could make their neighborhood a positive place in which kids could grow up and be inspired to be great leaders in the community.
“I wanted to show people what we could do if we came together as a community,” Anthony said.
His idea started by organizing basketball games in the neighborhood on Sundays. After receiving such great response from the community, the activities that Anthony and his friends initiated grew to include programs for the elderly and the many families who lived in the neighborhood.
“I kept hearing people say, ‘There’s nothing to do,’” Anthony said. “I wanted to show kids that it didn’t take much to have fun, even if it was just organizing a game of kickball.”
Today, Anthony’s idea has grown into a community organization called Community Coming Together. They have anywhere from 50 to 60 volunteers who help coordinate events each month, such as a movie night for the kids, bingo night for the elderly and a new program called “How to Raise a Man.”
“I am 36 years old and I never lived with a dad. I didn’t have a man in my life to teach me how to do things, like get up and go to a job, to care for my family and to put God first in my life,” Anthony says. “It’s wonderful to have the love and support that a mother and grandmother can provide to a young man, but looking back I realize there are some things that I just needed to learn from another man.”
“How to Raise a Man” is a program open to men of all ages who want to be mentored by other men and to those men who want to volunteer their time to assist with providing guidance to those seeking advice on how to raise their sons.
Today, Anthony is a positive role model to his community and to his three children. He is a teacher at Paducah Day Nursery and volunteers much of his time to building up Community Coming Together.
A big part of his mission is to provide resources to help build families. Something as simple as throwing rocks by the river plays a big part in building a positive family environment. It’s all about doing things together.
“I teach my kids that it doesn’t take a lot of money to do stuff with your family,” Anthony says. “It really doesn’t take much to make a positive difference.”
Anthony is truly making a positive difference in this community. He is doing work that many have ignored or not had a passion to accomplish. Because of his dedication and the work he has done in Elmwood Court and in other Paducah neighborhoods, Anthony has been named VUE Magazine’s Difference Maker of the month.
Those who work alongside Anthony see the difference his work is having on those whom he meets.
“It shows to those that know him that they have a choice in building up their own communities,” Amina Johnson says. “Anthony Banks is a great father, leader and mentor for our community. His vision is changing lives, through the community, for the community.”
Find more information on Community Coming Together on Facebook or on Anthony’s personal page. You can also search for #CommunityComingTogether to learn about upcoming events and to get involved in supporting the work Anthony and his volunteers have begun.
West Kentucky Garage Builders and Socially Present support VUE’s Difference Maker program.
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