Cindi and Dan Gremling are just doing life on the block at their neighborhood outreach Hazels’ House of Hope. which offers inner city residents a place to go if they have a need. It’s a temporary sanctuary from the realities of life in the inner city,.a place where Grandma Cindi sits on her porch and offers words of wisdom. “It is a community house serving those in the inner city of Columbus, honoring and loving the ‘least of these.’”
Hazel’s House opened in Spring 2011, on Morrill Avenue, just off Parsons Avenue. Prior to its inception, Cindi Gremling hosted a women’s bible study. One of the women in the group worked with teens in residential treatment centers. “It was so awesome to watch 14 year olds and 65 year olds in the same room, interacting. It's the perfect example of the older women teaching the younger women," Cindi states. Cindi, however, watched the girls age out of the foster system, and get almost literally thrown out on the streets, some turning to men, drugs, alcohol and prostitution. Thus the background for Hazel’s Houses comes from a desire to get girls off the streets and get them the help they need.
That's when, three years ago, Cindi experienced a revelation from God. "Wouldn't it be great if this girls had a Grandma's house. A place where they could come in, and it smells like cookies, and they could get a warm meal, take a shower, with a big fluffy towel and maybe lay down and take a nap for an hour," Cindi states. Cindi shared her idea, and she began getting calls, and was invited to meetings to share her vision to get women off the streets. A friend started a crisis center in the Franklinton area that provided a place where girls could come, get lunch, do some laundry. The program assisted with rehab placements as well. “One of the women I met had been put on the streets when she was 14 by her mother. Her mother was a prostitute; her grandmother was a prostitute too, and she was out on the streets till she was 40 years old. That’s a long, hard life,” Cindi recalls. After three years of sobriety, this women desired to open a sober living house, and Cindi helped her make her dream a reality.
Next, a childhood friend of Cindi’s saw what she was doing and approached her and asked her if she bought her childhood home, would Cindi put girls in it? The house had been her parent’s home for 53 years, and her mother’s name was Hazel. She asked Cindi to name it after her mother, Hazel, so Hazel’s House of Hope opened just off Parsons Avenue on Morrill Avenue. Never had Cindi expected to move to the neighborhood where her girlfriend died in a crack house years prior, but Cindi didn't believe in coincidences and new God had a purpose.
As Cindi and her husband Dan renovated the home, Cindi realized, it couldn’t actually house women. “ I could sit on the porch and watch the girls work the corner; I could watch the crack addicts go in and out of the house a friend died in six years ago, so I’m not going to rehab girls there. So ok God, what is all this about, Cindi questions. “As we’re working and I’m watching the dynamics of the neighborhood and watching the children, I basically fell in love with the neighborhood. If I could bring a bag of apples, the kids would swarm. The first outreach that I did on the block was I went to the Rally’s on Parsons and bought 20 cheeseburgers, and just went up and down the street and said, ‘have you had lunch’? Hazel’s House became an urban lighthouse to the community.
To date Hazel House has:
- Held Bible School for the children
- Taken women from the block to 2 women’s conferences
- Taken 15 youth to a youth conference
- Had 2 clothing giveaways
- Held movies in the yard
- Hold weekly meetings for children, teens and women
- Had 3 women graduate from a 10 week class on hope & inner healing
- Passed out hotdogs for trick or treat
- Fed 100+ at Thanksgiving
Cindi and Dan are just doing life on the block – someone called them the ‘rock on the block.’ That involves showing people something different. “When people have been raised in a poverty lifestyle, they don’t know anything different. How will they know, unless we tell them, unless we model for them that life can be different. I want it to be nice because they’re not used to nice. If you could see the conditions some of these people live in. I’ve walked into some of their homes and my flip flops stuck to the floor. I want to have the best food on the block. I want them to stop in the yard, and say ‘God lives here.’ And I want to watch their demeanor change on that side of the fence and this side of the fence,” Cindi states. Most of Cindi’s ministry is done on the porch. “You can’t see these things and do nothing!”
The Gremling's presence in the neighborhood changes the atmosphere. Cindy witnessed several events that made that apparently clear. As she headed to Morrill for a group activity one day, she came upon 20 men in the middle of the street preparing to brawl. As she carried bags to her house, the men began screaming and yelling, and throwing punches. Cindi declares, “not on my block! This is not happening on my block! I just starting declaring over the situation, and the group just dissipated and left in two groups of ten. That’s not the way 20 guys in a fight end,” Cindi explains.
“We don’t realize what we carry with us [the presence of God] can change your whole block – the entire atmosphere. It’s been absolutely amazing. I’m having the time of my life. I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do this,” she shares.
”We have become the resident grandparents on the block. As we step out on the porch we are greeted with “Hi, Grandma Cindi”. It’s the essence of what a grandma is. Grandmas love you no matter what. It only takes a small amount of light to pierce even the darkest place. John 1:14 says “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood”. That is what we have done. We have opened our home to the neighborhood matter what, they don’t let you get by with anything, and they always tell you the truth.
Each week we hold classes at Hazel’s House to teach life skills & Biblical principles to men, women, teens and children. Before or after each meeting all attending are fed. Some days we know this is the only meal they will receive.”
The groups at Hazel’s House continue to grow. Teen boy’s group is learning the power of prayer, while the teen girls are realizing that they are a princess, and what it means to be the “Daughter of the King”. Each child that gives his/her life to Christ receives a free bible. They then bring others who want bibles. She even had a married couple (an unusual thing to be married on this block) who each wanted bibles. An hour later they returned and ask Cindi to write in their bibles. "To me that's an honor to get to speak into their life. So I write something in the wife's bible, and the husband says, you might as well write something in mine too," Cindi says. Cindi wrote that he was a mighty man of God in his bible, speaking prophetic destiny over his life.
Cindi and Dan hale from Pickaway County where they lived in their country home in the woods for 23 years. Previously, Cindi broached the subject of moving to the suburbs to get a negative reaction from Dan, who preferred to not have neighbors. But one night, as they sat in their knotty pine living room in leather recliners watching their big screen television, Cindi looked at Dan and said, “We should move to the city. At least for the summer so we can create a presence” to which he replied, “That could happen.” Cindi thought she heard angel’s sing for Dan to even entertain the idea.
“We have moved four times in the last two years because we’re kind of like pilgrims. Shortly after the opening of the first facility, two entrepreneurial friends approached the Gremlings and offered them a second house which they sowed into the ministry. Two interns, one Cindi’s sister, and the 2nd Arianna Grace moved into the Morrill house, and the Gremlings moved to the second facility for about a year. Another friend offered a home on the Hilltop where the Gremlings stayed for another few months, until another friend gave them a property on Fairwood Avenue where they currently reside, with their newest member of the family, Freddie, age 4.
Freddie originally lived near Hazel’s House Morrill. The Gremlings knocked on the door of Freddie’s family home the day they delivered the Rally’s cheeseburger’s. Freddie’s siblings mention they might have to move because they have bed bugs. Cindi notes the honesty of the children. As Cindi stands there, the children run and get a box and show her the remains of their baby brother Noah who had recently died. Cindi questioned at this juncture whether she could truly do this. Freddie’s parent didn’t pay much attention to him, and often Cindi would go over and ask where he was, and the family didn’t know, just that he was around. He was one of triplets, the mother attempted to abort, but Freddie survived, but with birth defects. Dan and Cindi decided approached the father, custody papers in hand and power of attorney, and asked if they could take and care for Freddie, and he promptly agreed. Freddie remains a member of the Gremling family today, and a joyful face at Hazel’s House.
Chief benefactors of the Hazel’s House services remain the children, though others are served. “They can’t help that Mom sells the food stamps. They can’t help that there’s no food in the cupboards. They have no choice in the situation. Towards the end of the month after group, we send food home with the kids because we know the food stamps are gone,” Cindi explains. Once, after Hazel’s House distributed food to the children, an adult called indicating they’d like food from the organization. Cindi discovered five adults living in that home, all unemployed, and she didn’t feel compelled to provide for adults when none choose to work. The Gremlings did offer to sit down and work on finances and budgeting with those individuals.
“The government has done a great injustice, and I don’t know that I’m ever going to fix that, but if I can teach the next generation. . . We just say to them what do you want to be when you grow up? Because you can be anything you want to be. You look at those kids, and you’ve got to show them something different. We take them off the block, and we take them to experiences they’ve never had. It’s just being a grandma. It’s the essence of what a grandma is. Grandma’s love you no matter what. They don’t let you get away with anything, and they always tell you the truth. That’s Grandma Cindi,” she shares.
Hazel’s House of Hope now had houses in the South, West and East, Cindi felt sure, something would open up in the North. Not surprisingly, a benefactor approached Cindi about a home in Sunbury, which will become the Hazel’s House in the North once sufficient funding for rehab of the property is obtained, and construction has been completed. Cindi and Dan plan to relocate to get this facility going for Hazel’s House. Interns are placed in the existing homes, and Cindi and Dan get the next one running, but still go to each facility for different projects, and to stay connected with the community.
It’s been an amazing journey for the Gremlings. Their son’s call them crazy, but Cindi calls it ‘God crazy.’She says she doesn’t know what she’s doing, but she’s accomplishing so much. It requires stepping out in blind faith. “It’s about honoring the neighborhood. I honor you, if you’re the girl on the corner, if you’re the drug dealer or if you’re the welfare Mom – I honor you. I look at the girl’s on the corner, and think, ‘you were created in the image of God,’ but they don’t know that. God doesn’t love me any more than He loves them. He didn’t talk to the prostitute; He talked to His daughter,” Cindi shares. Jesus was radical and people often represent Him as a Pharisee. He showed love and mercy, He didn’t condemn, and that is what the Gremlings do. They know the importance of being Jesus, not preaching to these people.
“My people don’t care about Jesus. My people don’t care about church. They’re naked. They’re hurting. They are in prison. It does no good to say God will supply all your needs, I’ll pray for you when they have nothing in their fridge. If you want to flip a pancake, if you want to come down and serve my people, great, but you better not come preach to my people,” says Cindi emphatically. It’s as she says, show them something different. If the people come into the houses, and we have groups, they do know it’s a bible study, or different courses or classes for them.
Cindi mentions St. Francis of Assisi who said "preach at all times, and when necessary use words." "It's about being the light to the neighborhood. It's about being the change agent spiritually."
Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
"I’m often asked 'how could you do that?' 'Why would you do that?' To which I respond 'why not'. I realize that not everyone is at a stage in their life where they can just pick up, leave their home and move to the inner city, but we can all be a part. Why not partner with us, as we change the world-one girl-one house-one block at a time," Cindi asks.
Interested in helping Hazel’s House of Hope? Donate to the project. Go to www.hazelshouse.com and click on the ‘Donate’ tab. You can send a check to Hazel’s House of Hope at PO Box 7576, Columbus, OH 43207. Want to help? Contact Cindi Gremling at 614-205-5473, or donate at www.1gwa.org. Girls with Attitude is the name of Cindi’s 501(c)3. Hazel’s House of Hope is a dba under that organization. Please consider contributing to this organization. It is rich soil in which to plant. Interested in being an intern for Cindi? Nine to 12 month positions are available. Interns don't pay rent, but individuals pay $100 a week, couples $150 for the opportunity to be an urban missionary. Gas, electric and internet are included. Go to the website for an application.
“Keep us in your prayers, as the spiritual dynamics on the block are shifting. Families are moving off the block, people are coming and going, but as someone put it Hazel’s House of Hope is the “rock on the block”. May we fill that position as we are built on the Rock,” Cindi states. Everyone needs hope, and the Gremlings set up houses of hope. This journey for them unraveled so quickly and so unexpectably with doors of favor only God could open. They gave up their life of comfort and ease out in the country, to meet the need of the hurting in the inner city. They are truly amazing people that live out the Gospel in every day life.