Rebuilding Together Springfield – an SHA volunteer team helps make a difference
In a matter of hours, a one-block section of Pendleton Avenue received a major sprucing up on a rainy Saturday in late April, and 13 Springfield Housing Authority volunteers were a part of the action.
The SHA team was part of the April 26 event known as Rebuilding Together Springfield, the annual clean-up that included an army of nearly 1,000 volunteers who cleaned out vacant lots, dug out old tree stumps, pulled out buried concrete blocks, raked, and planted thousands of trees, bushes and flowers in a neglected section of the Old Hill neighborhood.
The effort is part of a national movement called Rebuilding Together, which this year included 100,000 volunteers and 10,000 projects in 200 communities.
For this year’s Springfield effort, the stretch of street targeted included Pendleton Avenue Apartments, the 19-unit family development where the SHA team converged to clean, rake, spread mulch and plant on a rainy, chilly day.
Volunteers like Daisy Gomez said they were happy to be there, despite the weather.
“I want to be part of helping people in the community and making a difference,” she said. “It feels good to do something that you know is going to help others.”
The SHA team included Gomez, Michelle Booth, Nicole Contois, Candra Cripps, Richie Daigneault, his son Matt Daigneault, Laurie Lappie, Mary Ellen Lowney, John Martin, Joan Miranda, Pam Wells, her friend Sylvia Mango, and Sandra West. Team leaders were Nicole Contois, John Martin and Sandra West.
Contois praised the work of the group, calling them dedicated and giving of part of their weekend.
“This was a great turnout and we got so much done,” said Contois, who is board member and treasurer of Rebuild Together Springfield.
“The mission of the organization is to keep low-income homeowners in their homes. We do things as varied as raking and planting, and replacing roofs and porches,” she said.
Indeed, one single-family home to the west of the SHA property got a new front porch thanks to the day, which relies on private donations. Donors include Columbia Gas, Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, the Davis Foundation, Faith United Church, Dunkin’ Donuts, Lowe’s, MassMutual Financial Group, Rocky’s, United Way of Pioneer Valley, SHA, area banks, and many more organizations and agencies.
The event began with coffee, donuts and a welcome from officials including Rebuilding Together Springfield Executive Director Colleen Loveless, who spoke of volunteers in the highest terms.
“What you are doing is so important – you’re volunteering. You’re helping an area that has asked for help. And you’re making a difference in our community,” she said.
Loveless said the group began a 10-year initiative last year that will provide upgrades to 250 homes, including the 25 that were worked on Saturday.
A news conference followed the bulk of the work, and included thanks and praise from Mayor Domenic Sarno, state Sen. James Welch, state Rep. Benjamin Swan, and many more. All agreed that the event was a success.
“We owe each of you a debt of gratitude,” Sarno said, offering specific praise for the Western New England University football team, which helped clear out a cluttered lot filled with bulky items, much garbage, and dead trees and trunks.
The SHA team gave the day their best effort, sprucing up the street edge of the long property to make for a pretty welcome. Residents peered out from their windows, smiling and waving in thanks and encouragement.
Property Manager Sandra West said she’ll be happy to watch the annual flowers bloom.
“I want to help the community,” she explained. “It’s my home too, and I want the neighborhood to look nice.”