Balnetta Crawford


Balnetta Crawford
Ubuntu Center Receptionist

When you call the Ubuntu Center for Peace, there’s a good chance the welcoming voice on the other end is that of receptionist Balnetta Crawford. Balnetta came to Join Hands as a volunteer at the Ubuntu Center for Peace shortly after it opened in 2016. She immediately loved everything about it, and moved to East St. Louis shortly thereafter to work there. Balnetta happily shares how working at the Ubuntu Center has positively influenced her outlook on life. As she explains, “If I could turn back the hands of time, I would have come here as a teen and then as a parent. Sheila Burton has poured her heart out for the kids and families here, going beyond the call of duty to help them. It is hard to describe the joy and change I have seen in myself and in others since coming to Join Hands. It is a community of trust, like a family.”

In addition to her reception and welcoming duties, Balnetta is a multi-tasker and keeps everything running smoothly seven days a week. She can be seen cleaning, organizing, distributing food, assisting with various weekday and weekend activities, opening and closing the center, and assisting wherever help is needed. She is very proud of everything Join Hands does in the community, but has been especially moved by the Peace Warrior program. Having experienced the loss of a son to gun violence, she appreciates how the Peace Warriors actively share Dr. King’s message of nonviolence with their peers. “To see our Peace Warriors teaching others how to react in a positive way to a negative situation, and talk things out to resolve problems is powerful. It is the solution we need to show there is a better way.”

When not at Join Hands, Balnetta loves spending time with her children and grandchildren, shopping and enjoying a variety of foods. She feels especially blessed by the role she plays in her grandchildren’s lives because she was very close to her own grandparents. Balnetta is excited to be part of Join Hands as the organization continues to grow and thrive in East St. Louis.