Community Partner Spotlight: Habitat for Humanity
Groups of people in bright tee shirts carry an assortment of gardening gadgets and tools, fanning out among the shotgun homes that line the neighborhood lanes. Some are headed toward alleyways with trash bags and gloves, some are towing wheelbarrows and shovels, paint and paintbrushes, and others are headed to houses to help homeowners with structural projects. It’s a mix between kids and adults, volunteers and residents -even a few Heine Brothers’ Coffee baristas and staff.
This is the scene you’ll encounter at the Love Your Neighborhood events, which our Portland neighbors from Habitat for Humanity of Metro Louisville began in 2016 in Louisville.
Lisa Dettlinger, the Community Development Resource Coordinator for Construction projects, explains that the Love Your Neighborhood program is,”a holistic approach to creating change in our neighborhoods that have the greatest need for stability. The program focuses on community development and home repair in low-income, at risk, disadvantaged neighborhoods of Louisville where Habitat has an investment.”
Love Your Neighborhood strengthens the connection between individual pride, community engagement, and neighborhood livability. The neighborhood events are a “jump start” for residents in these communities to improve their neighborhood, first with help, and later on their own. Volunteers and neighbors work side by side on home improvement projects together, which leads to resource sharing and relationship building.
“Last year, we hosted 3 events in the Smoketown, Shelby Park and Parkhill neighborhoods. Even though this initiative is new to us, we had over 900 volunteers participate in 2016,” says Lisa.
This summer, Habitat for Humanity organized two of these events in the Portland and California neighborhoods, with a third planned for the Russell neighborhood September 23.
With so many volunteers, plus residents’ help, the impact of the program is not only significant, it’s visible.
After a Love Your Neighborhood day has happened, all the overgrown brush is cut back, many homes have a new coat of paint and repaired porches, and the streets are a little bit safer to drive. Sometimes a crosswalk gets added, or an alleyway gets cleared out so visibility is improved.
One of Lisa’s favorite stories about Love Your Neighborhoods happened during the very first event; “While canvassing the neighborhood one day, this homeowner approached me. She was very shy, and hesitantly asked if it was too late to submit an application for repairs, but did not have transportation to get to the post office to buy a stamp to mail the application. I asked her to complete the application while I finished walking the neighborhood. When I came back past her house, she was waiting on me and her home was accepted as one of the projects.”
“The property surrounding her house had not been maintained and weeds were growing up onto her house, into her windows and pulling off her gutters. The fence in the front yard also needed to be painted and she wanted to add security doors so she would feel safe. She was very reserved when it came to meeting new people. It was difficult for her to communicate to the multiple people working on the project including the media covering the event. However, we had formed a bond, she began hugging, and thanking me every time I visited her,” says Lisa.
On the day of the Love Your Neighborhood event, Lisa wasn’t sure how she would respond to the volunteer team working on her house (which is a requirement to be accepted as a project).
“But, by the end of the day, the pride in her home and herself was shining through. She hugged her team leader, the U of L students who work on her house and even Mayor Fischer, including taking a one-on-one photo with him!
Love Your Neighborhood beautification days leave an impact on the neighborhoods, but they also leave an impact on the volunteers.
That’s why we encourage you to participate in the upcoming Love Your Neighborhood in Russell, in a group or as an individual. There are plenty of projects to work on, no matter your skill set:
- Porch and ramp repair
- Gutter repair
- Fence repair
- Alley and street clean-ups
- Painting, potting and distributing flower pots to all homes
- Re-striping crosswalks leading to community spaces and buildings
SIGN UP & FIND MORE INFO:
Love Your Neighborhood: Russell
Saturday, September 23rd
(starting location: TBD)
Volunteers can sign up at https://louisvillehabitat.volunteerhub.com/Events/Index
Or, think about sponsorship by contacting Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org.