Volunteers tomorrow will make repairs and improvements to more than two dozen homes on one street in Springfield, Massachusetts. It is part of an ambitious multi-year effort by a national non-profit organization to revitalize one of the poorest urban neighborhoods in the country.
Contractors have been busy working on houses on Pendleton Ave all week doing the complicated and skilled work to pave the way for more than a thousand volunteers who will swarm to the block on Saturday to complete the transformation of the street by applying coats of paint, carrying off debris, and doing yard work.
The major rehab of 25 homes is part of an annual block build orchestrated by Rebuilding Together, an organization that works to preserve affordable housing. It is the second year of a 10-year plan to improve hundreds of homes in the impoverished Old Hill Neighborhood, where 70 percent of families live below the poverty line; 12 percent of Massachusetts residents live in poverty.
Audrey Wilson has lived in her small two-story house on Pendleton Ave for 46 years. Her house is to get new windows, a new kitchen floor, a fresh coat of paint and repairs to a rickety porch.
" I am thanking God that is being done, because I didn't have the money to do it."
In addition to long neglected repairs the houses will also be weatherized and heating systems converted from oil to natural gas and in one case a solar powered hot-water setup, according to Rebuilding Together Springfield executive director Colleen Loveless.
" It is going to have such a profound impact because people will save money on their utility bills. Many of the people have lived here for over sixty years and now they are on Social Security with fixed incomes."
The organization is spending $600,000 on Saturday’s project.
"About half the funding is contributed from outside the city of Springfield and a third is coming from outside the state of Massachusetts. We have donors as far away as Oregon. It really is terrific," said Loveless.
In addition to the work on the 25 homes, improvements will be made to a neighborhood park.
The Old Hill Neighborhood has been hard hit by crime, the foreclosure crisis that precipitated the Great Recession, and the tornado that struck Springfield in 2011. Neighborhood council member Ethel Griffin believes the 10-year revitalization plan will make a big difference.
" I think we will see people begin to move back, and have single family homes."
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno endorses Rebuilding Together’s master plan for the neighborhood.
"This is how you strengthen a neighborhood: house by house, corner by corner, stoop by stoop, street by street, good family by good family."
The city has allocated $25,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding to Rebuilding Together.