Rebuilding Together Springfield galvanized 1,000 volunteers and repaired 25 homes in honor of National Rebuilding Day.
Colleen Loveless, the executive director of Rebuilding Together Springfield, did such an incredible community rebuild because she wanted to have a broader and more sustainable impact on Springfield’s Old Hill Neighborhood.
Old Hill is the poorest neighborhood in Massachusetts. Colleen said that a number of nonprofits have been building new homes in and around the neighborhood. However, Rebuilding Together Springfield wanted to revitalize Tyler Street in Old Hill to give back to the families that have been there for decades. “They needed critical repairs,” Colleen said. “We wanted to help these homeowners who have stuck it through here for all these years.”
Planning for this expansive project started last November. Rebuilding Together Springfield had some applications in, but they went door to door in Old Hill and attended community meetings to spread the word. People were skeptical at first. Colleen said the poor and elderly are especially vulnerable to fraud. Some homeowners saw the free repairs Rebuilding Together promised to provide as too good to be true. However, it didn’t take too long for the community to start backing Rebuilding Together Springfield in their efforts to revitalize Old Hill.
Usually, Rebuilding Together Springfield repairs about 15 homes with 500 volunteers for National Rebuilding Together all over the city on National Rebuilding Day. Now, they had 25 homes and 1,000 volunteers all on Tyler Street. “It’s pretty amazing work, and we got to see the totality of it and the impact.”
That impact wasn’t just reserved for the volunteers. TD Bank sponsored a block party cookout with live music. There were face painting stations set up for the neighborhood children. Middle schoolers made flower pots and planted them in gardens. Senior citizens manned the arts and crafts table where they made signs for the homeowners.
The most difficult part for Colleen was making sure she had the right number of volunteers. As word spread, the momentum could hardly be stopped. More and more people donated and wanted to volunteer. Things originally thought impossible to do became a reality thanks to the new donors and volunteers. “It was a nice problem to have,” Colleen joked.
One homeowner that really touched Colleen was an elderly U.S. Marine veteran. He still works full time to support his wife who was diagnosed with cancer. She finished her last round of chemo therapy a week before National Rebuilding Day. One of their children volunteered that day as well.
A volunteer who Colleen really appreciated was an elderly man who stopped by after lunch, because he knew a lot of morning volunteers would leave around that time. The Springfield man took a shuttle bus and rode his bike from the bus stop to volunteer for the event. Colleen said, “he did all the unglamorous volunteer work: cleaning up after the block party, lifting, trash removal.”
And all their effort went beyond just landscaping and painting. Rebuilding Together Springfield volunteers converted oil heating to natural gas, removed mold, installed ramps, repaired roofs, fixed plumbing, and weatherized homes. They truly revitalized a community.