Over a thousand volunteer laborers will pack into one city block in Springfield, Massachusetts tomorrow to help finish 28 home renovations. The goal of the project is to create energy efficient and healthy homes in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the United States.
The house on Prince Street, where Barbara Cisero has lived for 21 years, is going to be painted Saturday, repairs will be made to the porch, a storm door repaired, and the backyard play area for children cleaned up.
" Whatever they want to do is fine with me," she said.
All the work will be done at no cost to Cisero. Her home is part of this year’s Green-N-Fit Neighborhood Rebuild, a project by Revitalize Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving affordable housing stock.
Cisero, who operates a daycare in her home for eight children, hopes the project will make for a safer environment.
" People will drive by and see it looks better they will want their children to come here and see it is not a bad neighborhood at all. We have had help to build up the neighborhood," she said.
This marks the third year of a 10-year strategic plan by Revitalize CDC to repair 20-25 houses a year on 10 contiguous blocks in the Old Hill Neighborhood. 70 percent of the neighborhood families live below the poverty level. Most of the houses are over 100 years old.
This year’s work is concentrated on King Street and three side streets. The scope of the work includes converting home heating systems from oil to natural gas, fixing roofs, replacing windows and doors, weatherization, siding, fencing, painting and yard work.
Revitalize CDC President and CEO Colleen Loveless said donated materials and supplies have arrived on site and prep work for Saturday’s neighborhood rebuild has been under way for three weeks.
"We have skilled licensed contractors come in ahead of time and focus on anything structural," she explained.
The work plan for Saturday includes removing trash and debris from vacant lots.
" The ideal plan is to have at least 90 percent of the work completed that day," said Loveless. "Preparation is key to making sure that gets done."
Participants in the project include members of Youthbuild, a program where high school dropouts earn a GED and learn a trade. Jack Toles of Chicopee has been putting up vinyl siding, installing handrails on porches and doing some carpentry work. He said it is a great experience.
"I can see the smile on the homeowner's face. To have that feeling of giving back is just amazing. That's why I do it. Plus, to learn and become a better person," he said.
Revitalize CDC recently changed its name from Rebuilding Together. The organization said it has invested $28.8 million into Springfield’s housing stock since 1992 and helped more than 500 families.