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Volunteers To Repair Houses In Poor Neighborhood

A massive housing renovation project will take place this Saturday in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  A thousand volunteers will pack two contiguous streets  in Springfield’s Old Hill neighborhood and do major repair  work on more than two dozen homes..

   Carol Granado is excited about the work planned on her home at 163 Tyler Street that will include a new roof, exterior painting, new bathroom plumbing and three new windows.

   Granado and her husband Oscar have lived in the home for 32 years. It is where they raised their family. Oscar Granado is a Vietnam veteran, who at the age of 72 still works a factory job. He needs the health insurance to cover the medical bills for his wife , diagnosed last year with breast cancer.

   Colleen Loveless, the executive director of the Springfield affiliate of Rebuilding Together,  the nonprofit that is undertaking Saturday’s project, said the Old Hill neighborhood was picked because there are many residents like the Granados, who have lived there for decades, but can’t afford the upkeep on their homes.

   Major work on the selected homes will include new roofs, energy efficient windows and doors, painting, vinyl siding, replacing rickety stairs and sagging porches. Some houses are being converted from oil heat to natural gas. There will be yard work done, shrubs and flowers planted. A community garden will be started.

   Several contractors have donated their time to do the more skilled labor. Loveless said the donated materials have an estimated value of $500,000.

   The largely residential Old Hill neighborhood has been the focus in recent years of government sponsored revitalization programs.  Several nonprofit groups have built brand new houses. There are still  boarded -up abandoned buildings and vacant trash- strewn lots.  Esther Russell has lived in the neighborhood for 16 years and said it is beginning to change for the better.

   Ethyl Griffin, the president of the Old Hill Neighborhood Council believes Saturday’s major undertaking will make a big difference.

   Volunteer registration for Saturday’s project has closed.  Rebuilding Together will have other projects in the future.  The Springfield affiliate has rebuilt more than 70 homes in the past year, including many that were damaged by the 2011 tornado.

   The national  Rebuilding Together was founded more than 30 years ago as an organization dedicated to preserving affordable homeownership.  The organization has been working recently on rebuilding projects in areas affected by Superstorm Sandy.

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