Elnora Haynes was a force to be reckoned with—but not in the way that most would expect. In 2016, Haynes, a longtime resident of New Community Associates, was described by the City of Newark as “a stabilizing force in the community” at a ceremony honoring unsung heroes.
“She was truly a community activist and a public servant,” said her daughter, Ericka Haynes.
Despite having a petite frame, Haynes was a mighty pillar within NCC and the wider Newark community, where she tirelessly served fellow seniors, youth and everyone in between. A stalwart leader in local politics, Haynes made it known that she considered her post as building chaplain to be her most cherished role. Haynes died at age 82 on March 1, 2017, surrounded by her family and loved ones.
For Haynes, there was no such thing as retirement. She worked side-by-side with New Community employees and displayed boundless enthusiasm in the Department of Health and Social Services. For 19 years, Haynes worked as a social services aide. She drew up the hospital visit list, connected seniors to resources, organized events and was ready to lend a hand at a moment’s notice.
“She was the mother of the department,” Care Coordinator Alisha Chatman-Jenkins said. “She couldn’t teach me about the computer, but she taught me about humility,” Chatman-Jenkins added.
Haynes’ community activism started at New Community when she lived at Gardens Family on Bruce Street while caring for her grandchildren, according to Care Coordinator Dorothy Artis, who met Haynes in 1997.
“She care about her community. She cared about the people,” Artis said. “It was a passion for her.”
Caring during crisis
During a visit to her mother’s apartment at 180 South Orange Avenue, Ericka Haynes recalled her elderly mother rushing towards danger to help neighbors. An apartment caught fire on the eighth floor and the security officer called Haynes to alert her that smoke was filling her floor. Instead of evacuating, Haynes donned a coat, left her daughter and granddaughter and dashed up the stairs alongside firefighters with axes in tow.
“I told my daughter, ‘go with grandma,’” Erika Haynes recalled.
When Hurricane Sandy struck New Jersey in 2012, Haynes took charge in her senior building to ensure that residents had food. When Erika Haynes arrived at New Community Associates to take care of her mother, she found Haynes in the community room handing out soup and sandwiches. “I’m okay,” Erika Haynes recalled her mother saying but then adding: “You don’t have any lights or anything either.”
Elnora Beverly Haynes was born on March 15, 1934, in Valdosta, Ga. She spent part of her adolescent years in Florida, where she graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in Miami. She attended Knoxville College in Tennessee, after which she married Fletcher Brooks and had their first daughter, Angela. The family settled in Miami where Haynes worked as a licensed practical nurse at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
In 1964, Haynes moved to Newark, New Jersey, the city that she would come to call home for more than 50 years. It was a busy season of life for Haynes, who had two more daughters, Danielle and Jocelyn, and also worked for the Newark Public Schools.
In 1970, she married Frederick Haynes and had her fourth and youngest daughter, Erika. She worked in food service for Marriott Corporation for 10 years before transitioning into advocacy and community activism in the mid-1990s.
Passion for advocacy
Haynes wore many hats. In addition to working as a social service aide and building chaplain, she was vice president of the New Community Senior Advisory Council, district leader of District 42 and participated in many senior-related committees around Newark.
“Her work spoke for her,” Bessie Walker, aide to the mayor for senior citizens affair and a former councilwoman, said.
Dignitaries including Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Senator Cory Booker and Congressman Donald Payne Jr. wrote letters to the family following her passing praising Haynes’ life work in Newark.
“If she told you something, you knew it was going to get done,” said New Community Director of Special Projects Richard Cammarieri.
Walking by faith
For Haynes, her Christian faith was woven into her everyday words and actions. She didn’t need to wear a blue baseball cap with “Jesus Is My Boss” in big block letters for people to know what she believed (although she did wear it on a few occasions).
“She always had an answer for you,” said Margie White, a friend of Haynes for 17 years. “It was always a lift to people,” she added.
Each day, Haynes prayed for the people in her life, as well as the city, state and country, her daughter said. When someone asked her, “how are you?” Haynes would often simply reply “blessed.” Her cell phone outgoing voice message was a recitation of John 3:16.
“She was a God-fearing woman. She believed in his power. She believed in prayer,” Chatman-Jenkins said.
Haynes possessed a profound faith that she shared with all who cross her path—whether through prayer offered, encouragement or an act of service.
“She came to the understanding that to be a true believer of our Lord Jesus Christ meant submitting,” Pastor Howard Burton said. “She lived a triumphant life,” he said.