By Aida Mallard
Special to the Gainesville Guardian
Greater Duval-area residents Arthur and Avis Clark and Julia Minor recently benefited from a community-wide service project that observed the 20th birthday celebration of AmeriCorps and the annual National Day of Service and Remembrance for Sept. 11, 2001.
The two homes were painted Friday and Saturday by volunteers from Alachua Habitat for Humanity, the Institute for Workforce Innovation Project YouthBuild Americorps program, the Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency, the University of Florida, Santa Fe College and others, including Nathan Crabbe, editorial page editor of the Gainesville Sun and a former AmeriCorps member.
Scott Winzeler, executive director of Habitat, who also volunteered at the Clark home, said the National Day of Service, now in its second year, coincided this year with the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps, a network of local, state and national service programs that connect more than 70,000 Americans each year in service to meet community needs in education, the environment, public safety, health and homeland security.
Winzeler said the two homes were painted through the Greater Duval Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative in partnership with the CRA. The Greater Duval area comprises Waldo Road to the west, Northeast 13th Avenue to the north, Northeast 25th Street to the east and East University Avenue to the south.
The CRA provided up to $500 for paint and supplies, and the labor was provided by volunteers. Homeowner Avis Clark, 60, and her grandson, 3-year-old Micah Williams, also helped the volunteers. Arthur Clark, 64, and Minor, 83, were unable to help because of health issues.
“Without their help, we couldn’t have done it,” Avis Clark said. “We’re both on disability. Habitat built our home 18 years ago. Now they’re back and everybody is real nice and it feels like family.
“Now Micah wants to take over the project,” joked Avis Clark.
Minor, who lives in the Cedar Grove neighborhood, said her house needed repairs that she couldn’t afford. Besides exterior painting, the work done at Minor’s home included repairing and caulking windows and repairing rotten wood.
“This means a lot to me,” Minor said. “I couldn’t have done it without their help.”
Audrey Jackson, Minor’s friend and caregiver, said Minor really needed to get the painting and repairs done, but didn’t have the finances to pay for the project.
“It (project) has been a blessing to her,” Jackson said. “Everyone has been very caring and concerned.”
The Greater Duval project can serve families through community development and housing solutions, such as new home construction, rehabilitation of vacant and foreclosed properties, home repairs, weatherization to make homes more energy-efficient and affordable and other improvements.
“This project provides the youth (in YouthBuild) with an opportunity to give back to the community and to apply the skills they’ve learned,” said Jonathan Leslie, executive director of the Institute for Workforce Innovation, who also volunteered at the Clark home. He said YouthBuild members who earn at least 400 community hours may be eligible for a stiped toward college or a trade school.
Mary Mitchell, 17, a member of YouthBuild, was one of the volunteers at the Clark home.
“It’s awesome to give back to the community, doing skills we’ve learned at school and helping someone I know,” said Mitchell, adding that she knows the Clark family because her uncle lives next door to them.
Malcolm Kiner, the CRA project manager who volunteered at the Minor home, said the painting project was born out of a CRA and Habitat partnership for the Neighborhood Redevelopment Initiative.
“It offers relief to folks and most of the recipients are elderly or disabled,” Kiner said. “This is a tremendous help.
“I’m an east Gainesville kid and this is a matter of giving back to the community where I was raised.”
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