Friday, April 03, 2009
extreme makeover: home edition
This week has been a total blast for me. I was a great way to shake off the winter doldrums.
Being out on the Home Makeover site every day was a real treat. The weather was not perfect (I was knee deep in mud at times) but it was great to be in the fresh air and around a real-live project that you could see progressing quickly. So much of what I do each day does not have an end or is not very sexy -- completing our insurance audit is not nearly as fun as watching a house be built in seven days.
After my Monday volunteering gig and having a media pass I knew my way around and explored every nook and cranny of the neighborhood. The neighborhood in general is in pretty bad shape. Lots of abandoned and unsafe houses.
The area went from a thriving blue-collar neighborhood in the 1960s, to one of the poorest parts of town after the loss of the railroad industry and the addition of two interstates (I-70 and I-65) running smack through the middle of the neighborhood. The highways geography divided the neighborhood. Desegregation of schools in the 1970s meant that kids were being bused outside of the neighborhood, diluting even more the sense of community.
That said, there are still a few neighborhood folks who really believed in the community. The Home Makeover recipient is one of them. Bernard McFarland is a single father of three teen-age boys. He grew up in the neighborhood and returned there after a four-year stint in the Navy. He and his sons were living in a house that needed some structural work and all three boys were sleeping on mattresses in one room.
Bernard started a mentoring group for children in the neighborhood. I had the privilege of attending a fundraiser for the family and hearing first-hand the impact he had on these kids.
One teenager said the most important thing he learned was, "how to dress." Can you imagine not having that parental over site? I swear my mom could tell from three counties away if I was wearing a slip. Other kids shared that they didn't know they could even think about getting an education beyond high school. Bernard was running the program out of a trailer next to his house. He now has a 900 square foot library in that spot.
I was blown away by all of the work Estridge Homes did in the neighborhood. They really went above and beyond for the community. Even the production crew that travels with the show said it was more than they'd ever seen done. One of my favorite coffeehouse customers and uncle to Ben and Kirsten was in charge of the peripheral work. I spent an evening following him around to see the projects.
By the time it was all over, Estridge (with the help of several vendors and donors) accomplished this:
Planted 1,200 trees.
Free internet access to 450 homes.
Donated 100 computers to neighborhood students.
Cleaned 30 streets of trash as well as yards, alleys and vacant lots.
Landscaped 22 homes.
Redressed 16 alleys.
Put new roofs on 2 homes
Demolished 2 abandoned homes. Put new siding on a church.
Worked with the city and local funders to create a community center from an empty school.
And watching this guy (assistant director of the show) work didn't hurt matters any.
For more photos:
Home Makeover site Wednesday, April 1
Fundraiser at Butler's Hinkle Fieldhouse, Wednesday, April 1
Home Makeover site Thursday, April 2
Home Makeover site Friday, April 3