Bay County Habitat and The Dow Chemical Company recently completed a Neighborhood Revitalization program in the Rexer-Jablonski neighborhood on the southeast side of Bay City, Michigan. It was no small task, but the rewards are incredible, according to volunteers and homeowners.
With the help of hundreds of Dow volunteers and local volunteers, as well as the support of over 30 organizations and 800 volunteers and homeowners, a total of 38 homes were revitalized in one week, July 24-31. Projects during the week included painting, porch restoration, gutter improvements, screen replacement, debris clean-up and general landscaping.
Key to completion of this revitalization project was the involvement of community organizations, including Paint and Pride, Bay City officials, Bay Area Housing Alliance, First Presbyterian’s Summer Work Camp, and St. James’ Catholic Church.
From the first mention of a revitalization project in the Rexer-Jablonski neighborhood, homeowners were supportive and excited. Bob Jarve, executive director of Bay County Habitat, visited each homeowner who had indicated an interest. Many homeowners in this area had already worked hard to upgrade their homes and make a difference in the neighborhood. The goal of this project was to help those homeowners put the finishing touches on their homes and to encourage other homeowners to get involved in similar improvement activities. Between Jarve and the homeowner, specific projects were identified for each property. Jarve often said this was the best part of the project. “I was able to talk with every homeowner, hear the wonderful stories about how long they had lived in the neighborhood and the history of their home.”
Bay City Mayor Charles Brunner commended the effort, adding that Bay City was full of wonderful neighborhoods and that working on revitalization allows neighbors to help each other and get to know each other better, all of which leads to building even stronger communities.
Rob Killey, who owns a home on Franklin Street, said he was thrilled with the help he received. Having worked to repair much of the inside of his home, he needed assistance in being able to paint and fix up the outside. Now his home is sporting a new paint job and a renovated front porch, which allows him to sit on that porch and look across the street at the home where he grew up. “This was a blessing for me. I had done all the repairs I could afford and now I have a brand new house that will serve me for years,” he said. “That’s what neighborhoods are all about.”
Another homeowner and Bay City native, Chris Kowalczyk, had worked for years on his three-story Victorian home that has been in his family for more than 100 years. “We had replaced the roof and flashing, we’d just completed replacing all the windows and in the last couple of years had restored the inside and replaced a furnace,” he said. “While we had hoped to paint the outside last year, there was just not enough money.”
But at the end of the Neighborhood Revitalization program -- 880 gallons of paint; 50 new trees, shrubs, and flower arrangements; 300 new fluorescent light bulbs; 1,700 board feet of deck material; 715-plus feet of gutters; and 32 downspouts later -- Kowalczyk’s home, along with many others in the community, was painted, trim and all.
Several homeowners spoke eloquently at the project celebration on the last day of the work week. One commented on the generous spirit of the volunteers. She was almost speechless as she recalled the sacrifices, time, and energy that volunteers showed to the families and for the project. Another, speaking on behalf of his family and his neighborhood, thanked everyone involved for their efforts on his behalf. He added that volunteers would probably never know how much their work was appreciated and how it gave him great comfort for his family and their future.
While each homeowner shared a unique story about their home or project, one common theme prevailed: such incredible work could not have been accomplished without the support of so many people and organizations. It had been a life-changing experience for residents, and probably for all participants.
See what else Bay County Habitat is working on by visiting http://www.habitatbaycounty.org, then find a home revitalization project in your area by searching keyword: “home rehab” “refurbish” “build house” “energy efficiency”