Rebuilding Together Tri-Cities Gets to Work on Hopewell
By Sarah Steele Wilson
Sep 10, 2012, 12:28
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson Volunteer helping to revitalize Hopewell’s B Village neighborhood.
After expanding from Petersburg to cover the entire Tri-Cities area last year, the local chapter of the national Rebuilding Together organization, rolled up its sleeves and joined forces with local volunteers on Saturday to help revitalize Hopewell’s B Village neighborhood with free home repairs.
“We are doing home repairs for home owners in need,” said Barbara Mait, Executive Director of Rebuilding TogetherHTri-Cities. “Mostly folks who are either elderly or financially not able to take care of these repairs.”
Mait said her organization worked with the Hopewell Planning Department to identify a neighborhood where they could distribute flyers and visit homes. The city also awarded a $20,000 Community Development Block Grant to help pay for the supplies and some of the work that will need to be done by contractors.
Most of the work was done by volunteers from local businesses and organizations who spent Saturday painting, scrubbing, sawing and hammering as workers installed storm doors, repainted houses, fixed decks and steps, worked on plumbing, electrical systems, pulled weeds and undergrowth from lawns.
“One of Rebuilding Together’s focuses is to leverage the skills of volunteers,” said Rebuilding TogetherHTri-Cities board president Judith Gruca. “So the goal was to get as diverse a group of volunteers corps as we can, that represents the community as much as practical.”
On Saturday, she was pleased to see two groups from Partners in Christ, a collaboration of local churches, a team of Hopewell Rotary Club members and a team of Evonik employees climbing ladders with paint cans in hand and sawing boards to brace decks.
Volunteers from the Hopewell Police Department, including Police Chief John Koehane, also pitched in, helping fix up houses and yards, while the fire department and Fire Chief John E. Tunstall canvassed the neighborhood, checking smoke detectors and dispensing fire safety tips. Representatives from Appomattox Regional Library System, the James House and the Red Cross were also in the 3 1/2 Street Park to hand out information. The Kiwanis Club donated lunch and John Randolph Foundation donated water.
Mait said that projects like Saturday’s work day help let neighborhoods know about the organization and how it can help them.
“...We make home repairs, but, you know what, our idea is to stabilize the neighborhood, because, when we leave, we want people to say, wow, they really did make a difference and I know I can call them to help me get the resources that I need to get things done,” she said.
Homeowners Caroline and Billy White, who have lived in their house next to the 3 1/2 park for 33 years, had not heard of the Rebuilding Together organization until Mait and Hopewell Mayor Christina Luman-Bailey stopped by one day to let them know about the upcoming work day.
The couple spent the day helping the volunteers clear out debris and doing what they could to help.
“They’re doing professional work,” said Billy White, a retired V-DOT employee who now drives a school bus for Hopewell Schools. “If we had to pay them for what they’re doing, we really couldn’t afford it.”
In addition to the work, White said he was enjoying spending time with the volunteers.
“It’s a fantastic organization and their doing a fantastic job,” he said.
Homeowners Arron and Sharon Canterbury also joined the volunteers at work on their house.
“There a whole lot of the holy spirit around here,” Arron said, noting how much he appreciated the work that was being done.
“It’s just nice to see how many people come out to help each other,” Sharon said, looking up from her porch painting.
The volunteers were similarly enthusiastic about the results of the day.
“All of these volunteers are in some way a part of this community and it helps them to be able to take pride in the community that they either live in or work in when they can come help someone who maybe is not as capable as they are of doing these kinds of repairs,” Gruca explained.
Members of the JILTS high school sorority who were helping to paint the fence at 3 1/2 street park said the event was good for them and the city.
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson Left to right: Lindsay Pugh, Megan Shumate, and Amanda Terry work together at the Rebuilding event on Saturday.
“It helps us bond,” said Hopewell High School student Megan Shumate, explaining what she likes about the community service projects JILTS does.
“I like the sense of knowing that I’m doing something for other people as well as myself,” Prince George High School student Pam Harsh added.
Several members of City Council were also helping out, including Jackie Shornak, who was dotted with silver paint.
“When something like this takes place, you get a spurt of energy and the energy grows and it’s just wonderful,” she said.
Shornak was on the board of the Richmond chapter of Rebuilding Together for 13 years and said she hoped to see the local organization expand in size to match them.
“We would do 50 homes, and I’m hoping this will grow to be 50 homes,” she said.
While taking a break for lunch, volunteers from the Partners in Christ organization, which formed with the goal of pooling the resources of local churches to help the community, said they found the motivation for helping in the lessons of Christ.
“Our Lord Christ told us to be a servant for others, and so that’s my motivation,” said Pat Maddox. “Just to be a servant and to show the love of Christ for everybody.”
Mayor Christina Luman-Bailey, who helped notify home-owners in the area about the opportunity said that the way the event brought different people together to work to work to improve their shared community was important.
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson Andras Nagy works on Saturday at the Rebuilding event on Saturday.
Andra Nagy, an Evonik chemist and native of Hungary, said he came out for a simple reason.
“To help people and to be a part of this great cause in Hopewell,” he explained.
Gruca said that two more houses will be worked on by contractors throughout the week.
“Our goal is to stay in B Village until B Village is complete,” she said.