The Hard Work is Worth It

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By Marianne Lynch, Executive Director

Last week, as I watched our Construction Director, Chuck Weiss, hand Brian, our newest homeowner, a tool box filled with the tools to tackle home maintenance, I began to reflect on the path that led to the moment of Brian’s dedication. Habitat’s journey has not been an easy one in this community, or even with rehabbing this house.

When Habitat started construction back in November, we discovered a lot going on behind the walls, including a broken beam and fire damage stemming from the other side of the building. With lots of experienced help, we were able to overcome those obstacles and make Brian’s home a beautiful one that he and his family will enjoy for many years to come.

Brian was also working hard to overcome obstacles to own his home; making the time in his busy schedule raising his three children to come perform his sweat equity, working with our staff to manage his budget, understanding the mortgage process and grappling with the reality of being a homeowner.

At the same time, Habitat was working diligently in the neighborhood to overcome so many of the obstacles that the residents have in making Cherry and Chestnut streets beautiful, safe, amazing communities. Habitat was trying to acquire some of the blighted properties on the street, deal with the trash and the dilapidated park, and empower the residents to find their voices of change.

Jump forward six months and Brian’s home is complete, and he is elated!  At the same time, he knows there is still hard work yet to do. Brian will spend the next year (or more) adjusting to being a homeowner - not being able to call his landlord when he needs his toilet fixed, deciding what color to paint his kitchen and making sure that he can juggle his financial responsibilities successfully. Thanks to the experienced support of volunteers, Habitat will be there by his side, helping him through this first critical year with encouragement, advice and a coach to mentor him along the way.

During this same time period, Cherry and Chestnut Streets have changed positively as well. The park has a new fence, painted play structures and new mulch, many of the dwellings up and down the 600, 700, 800 and 1000 blocks of the street have been repaired and residents there are moving forward in their desire to create a stronger neighborhood.  By attending community meetings, participating in the Porch and Stoop Contest, and getting to know each other, they feel confident about their ability to bring about true revitalization.

Although there are some wonderful things happening, there is still lots of hard work to be done. There are still 4 visibly vacant and abandoned properties in this neighborhood, including the twin adjoining Brian’s home. There continues to be issues with the park, trash, crime and more. What’s different is, just like Brian, the community knows that through the support of Habitat and many other organizations, they are not alone in their quest for a better life. They know that we are there to initially provide support for their efforts and the tools for them to eventually continue this work on their own.

Just as Chuck handed Brian the toolbox to handle the daily maintenance of homeownership, Habitat also provides him the tools to be a successful homeowner for years to come. At the same time, by providing the community with resources, such as block captains, a kids club, and a neighborhood association to empower themselves, we are handing over another kind of tool box for the community to be successful as well.

Both Brian and the community know that there is hard work yet to come, but just as Brian said when he walked through his new four bedroom, 1 ½ bath home with his children for the first time, the hard work is worth it.