Mission– Extreme Community Makeover coordinates volunteer teams to partner with underserved people to improve their own homes and neighborhoods. These projects build safer environments; cultivate community among residents, neighborhoods, and networks of local resource providers; and connect residents to a permanent path towards healthy, hopeful, and stable lives. This is ECM’s mission.
Consistently, I see the energy and the intention of these words come to life through our volunteers and residents. Personally, I often focus on the healthy, hopeful and stable lives part of the mission; and so it would be that it was the hopeful with a dash of harmony part that took center stage amongst the residents and volunteers in the Elyria neighborhood.
This Work Day was filled with people from most generations…as it often is. There were representatives from the Silent Generation, the Baby Boomers, Generation X, The Xennials, The Millennials/Gen Y or Gen Next, Gen Z, and yes even Gen Alpha. Each bringing their own generational beliefs and characteristics. True, we all know that each generation has value and will be affected and changed by the generations before them. However, it tends to be the habit of humanity that focuses on the differences. As the positive energy of the day worked its’ magic on me I began to see a unification of thought, concern and hope unfold.
Ray shared that he was born and raised in his Elyria home, and was in the service during the Vietnam War. He will continue living in his home during the I-70 highway renovation and hopes to be in his home for many more years. Ray welcomed ECM and Bethany Lutheran Church volunteers help to restore his yard. Everyone pitching in and offering their assistance and expertise; including six year old Braden and his older brother. Although, not big enough to do some of the more difficult tasks, Branden and his brother brought their good intentions, charm, sweet manners and thoughtful insights to the project. Just being around them one could not help but smile. For sure, these young adorable boys were learning the value of restoration, community and service.
Susannah and her husband have only been in their Elyria home for a year. They moved to the neighborhood, because it was one of the few that was still affordable. They are proud to be home owners and are doing their part to restore their home in keeping with the integrity of the current neighborhood. They love the charm and older architecture of the homes and are worried that the I-70 project will change the look and feel of the community. Along with neighbor, Alicia, Susannah and her husband have gentrification concerns for their community. They are worried that if this happens that many home-owners won’t be able to afford the taxes and that the charm and values of the community won’t survive the changes. Alicia smiled as she shared that she loves that children still come out and play in this neighborhood….much like generations past.
Resident Dalia began her clean-up efforts in the neighborhood when she bought her property back in 1991. She said the lot next to her home was a dumping ground for old tires and trash. She said, after a full day of work she would come home and work on the lot. It took her a long time, but she was able to clear out all of the trash. Like others, she chose this neighborhood, because it offered her an affordable opportunity to be a homeowner. Dalia is excited, but also concerned about the I-70 project and hopes that they will keep the current residents in mind as they build the park and maybe bring in some new businesses. Currently, there is only a liquor store and the GrowHaus down the street. The I-70 project is proposing that a new park be built above the highway, and Dalia is concerned that it won’t be accessible to the elderly and handicapped. For sure the park will be a place that current and new residents can build relationships and continue building their community.
Throughout the day, I continued to hear concerns for the changing neighborhood from our volunteers and residents. Volunteers, including the Extreme Teams, are passionate about community building and restoration. We are all for progress, but also see the value in maintaining our city’s already established neighborhoods. Kalie from our Follow-Up Team and I shared our ideas and thoughts about how the city can work with the current environment and improve upon the conditions. Planting more trees in the neighborhood would not only help improve the air quality, but would also provide shade and aesthetic beauty to the neighborhood. Planting perennial flowers would do the same and provide beauty year after year with very little cost. Maintaining the flowers in common areas would be a great way for the residence to come together and care for their community. For sure, each volunteer has offered their ideas for improvement and these good intentions are realized and witnessed through the ECM effort year after year.
As the day wrapped up and Extreme Teams volunteers gathered at the Command Center, spirits were high even though bodies were exhausted; Patrick singing Fergie tunes, Lisa (me) trying to dance along, Dominic, Patrick, Luis and others all joking around and teasing each other. I took in the energy of all these amazing people and realized that it wasn’t the differences in generations that I was noticing, but more that we were ONE with common passions, ideas, and concern for our community. We weren’t the Baby Boomers, Generation X, the Xennials, the Millennials….we were Generation US. All of us working together for a common cause!
~Lisa, Communications Team