Habitat Wake’s repairs part of community building

08/10/2014 1:25 PM

08/10/2014 1:26 PM

Anne Wilson loves to sit on the porch of her Apollo Heights home.

But it’s gotten harder for her and her husband, Larry, who are both in their early 60s, to keep the porch in tip-top shape as they age. Their health isn’t what it used to be, and they’re living on less income than they did in their prime working years.

“A lot of things we used to do ourselves or try to do, we can’t,” Anne Wilson said.

Now, thanks to a program called A Brush With Kindness run by Habitat for Humanity of Wake County, volunteers are making all of the necessary repairs to the porch of the home where the Wilsons have lived for 36 years.

Anne Wilson said she feels like a kid at Christmas.

“It’s just a good feeling knowing that these things are going to be done,” she said.

The Wilson house is the 100th project for A Brush With Kindness, which provides painting, landscaping and minor repair services to applicants who qualify based on income and location.

While Habitat is well-known for the new houses it builds around the world, programs like A Brush With Kindness are part of broader neighborhood revitalization efforts.

When homeowners can feel pride in the appearance of their house, it creates a ripple effect that can provide a boost to a whole neighborhood, said Syretta Hill, director of neighborhood relations for Habitat Wake.

The goal of neighborhood revitalization is to go beyond building a single house to building a community through additional services and programs.

“The wonderful thing about this work is that it goes beyond housing. ... We are able to think more holistically,” Hill said.

Since beginning its neighborhood revitalization work several years ago, Habitat Wake has focused on Wake Forest’s Northeast End and Raleigh’s Apollo Heights and Long Acres neighborhoods.

In Wake Forest’s Northeast End, for example, Habitat Wake has worked with local churches on jobs training, literacy programs and crime reduction.

Hill said Habitat Wake’s work there has been particularly effective because established community leaders invited them to join in their efforts.

In other cases, Wake has worked with Raleigh city officials to identify and help in neighborhoods. Though there isn’t an automatic partnership with residents in those cases, Hill said she has seen successes in those areas too.

Anne Wilson said the work on her home has inspired her to start talking with her neighbors about starting a committee dedicated to neighborhood issues. And while she can’t get up on a roof, she’s hoping to do some office or other volunteer work for Habitat.

“I’m definitely going to get involved with them,” she said.

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