The Martins received the keys for their life and work in the Lowell neighborhood just north of downtown, which the mayor called "ground zero" for the city's revitalization efforts. Joanie moved to Lowell in 1987. "When we asked the Lowell residents about the Martins and their positive impact on the neighborhood, the stories came flooding in," Swearengin said during the presentation.
Their work has included:
- "Martin Park"-- the Martins' side yard, where the couple has provided playground equipment for the kids, park benches for parents and hot dogs for hundreds at neighborhood barbecues.
- Joanie's cooking and English language classes in their home that have helped refugees get jobs.
- Reserving one of their apartments for the Wise Old Owl tutoring program, and Joanie teaching summer art classes in another.
- Putting on a safe Halloween carnival for the neighborhood every year.
- Joanie volunteering to do murals at the Neighborhood Resource Center and the Lowell School Library, involving the neighbors so people could get to know each other and feel they could make a difference in their neighborhood.
- Marty treating neighborhood children at any time of day or night, as well as advising young people.
In the words of a neighbor: "They have sought the peace of this neighborhood, and they have done it well."
"Joanie and Marty, you've touched the lives of so many who will always remember what you've given them," Swearengin said. "On behalf of a grateful city, I thank you for the work you've done to improve the lives of residents of the Lowell neighborhood."
A mentor of student teachers at FPU for 10 years, Joanie also manages the CalTPA (California Teacher Performance Assessment) program at the university. CalTPA is a battery of tests student teachers must pass in order to teach.
Joanie said she and Marty were honored by the mayor's recognition, but had been trying to stay out of the limelight. "What we have done in the Lowell community we have done because that's where God wants us to be," she said.
Several members of the FPU community have been involved in the Lowell neighborhood, including faculty Elizabeth Lake and Sherry Walling, graduate Dawn Steele and staff member Tina White and her husband, Randy.