Volunteers on Saturday in Springfield, Massachusetts will once again help repair homes in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country.
This year’s annual rebuilding day marks the culmination of an ambitious effort announced seven years ago by Revitalize Community Development Corporation to fix up more than 200 homes on 10 contiguous blocks in Springfield’s Old Hill neighborhood.
Originally planned to take a decade, the initiative is finishing ahead of schedule because in some years work took place on multiple streets. Next year, Revitalize CDC plans to move its annual “GreenNFit Neighborhood Rebuild” to a different area of Springfield.
This year, 10 homes on Marshall and Melrose Streets are being repaired. Also, volunteers will clean up seven vacant lots and help create a community garden.
One of the homes being fixed up this year belongs to 90-year old Marion Weston. Since her husband died 10 years ago, she has struggled to maintain the house where she has lived for 44 years.
"I have been waiting for someone to help me for a long time, so it will really mean everything to me," said Weston.
The repairs to the neighborhood’s old housing stock focus on meaningful improvements to allow the homeowners, who are mostly elderly and on fixed-incomes, to remain safely in their homes and to lower expenses through energy efficiencies.
Improvements can include retrofitting heating and cooling systems, new roofs, energy efficient windows, electrical and plumbing upgrades, painting, masonry repair and installing exterior access ramps.
"I am bonded with this area and the people in this area," said Ethel Griffin, director of programs for Revitalize CDC, who has lived in the Old Hill neighborhood for 53 years and was the longtime neighborhood council president.
She said people want to stay in their homes in comfort and safety.
The home repair initiative has had a big impact, not just in terms of infrastructure, but also community, said Griffin.
"I love what has happened," she said. " People are communicating with each other and that is what really makes a neighborhood."
Another homeowner benefiting from this year’s event, Clarence Baymon, said he’s looking forward to seeing all the volunteers on Saturday.
"I'd just like to thank them for taking time out of their schedule to come and help somebody they don't even know," said Baymon.
Revitalize CDC estimates 1,000-1,200 people will participate in this year’s rebuild event. In years past participants have come from as far away as Maine and Virginia.