Monday, 29 October 2012

MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Face lift for west side - House to House helps re-energize Washington Park community

House to House ministry (function(){var _cfg= GEL.namespace(""),_D= document;_cfg.AdSiteId = "";_cfg.bcAdServerBasePath = ";cc=2;alias=";_cfg.AdPositionId = "Video_prestream";_cfg.Player="948003025001";if(GEL.config.AdPage){_cfg.sstsval= GEL.config.AdPage;}else{_cfg.sstsval= ""; }_cfg.overlayson= (GEL.thepage.pageinfo.videooverlays=="on") ? true : false;function initVideo(){if(GEL.env.user.gender){_cfg.vgend= GEL.env.user.gender;}else{_cfg.vgend= "";}if({_cfg.vzip=;}else{_cfg.vzip= "";}if(GEL.env.user.yob){_cfg.vyear= GEL.env.user.yob;}else{_cfg.vyear= "";}var _videoPlayer= new GEL.widget.Video.Brightcove(GEL.ement("myExperience"), "articleplayer", {companion: {container: "",animate:true,remnantId: "remnantad",expandedId: "videoad",companionId: "companionad",iframeId: "iframe_ad"},SSTSCode: _cfg.sstsval,revSciZip: _cfg.vzip,revSciAge: _cfg.vyear,revSciGender: _cfg.vgend, bcAdServerBasePath: _cfg.bcAdServerBasePath,adPositionId: _cfg.AdPositionId,adSiteId: _cfg.AdSiteId,player: _cfg.Player,objectElem: "myExperience",overlaysOn: _cfg.overlayson,divSuffix: ''});_videoPlayer.init({});if(_D.getElementById("odyArtVideoThumb") && _D.getElementById("odyInitVideoImage")){_videoPlayer.thumbInit();}}GEL.thepage.initializer.addInitRoutine({ name: "video",priority: 10,namespace: [ "widget.Video-VAST", "anim.YUIAnimator", "analytics","util.Flash"], callback: initVideo}); })(); LAMP students help clear out three houses on Hill Street for House to House, a Christian homeownership ministry, in the Washington Park neighborhood in Montgomery recently. /*Collect Image Information*/(function(){var _id = 'AR';if(_id)GEL.thepage.pageinfo.pic[_id]= {id: "DS-310140021-AR-L",link: "",caption: "LAMP%20students%20help%20clear%20out%20three%20houses%20on%20Hill%20Street%20for%20House%20to%20House%2C%20a%20Christian%20homeownership%20ministry%2C%20in%20the%20Washington%20Park%20neighborhood%20in%20Montgomery%20recently.",credit: "Lloyd Gallman/Advertiser",canBuyPhoto: "1",width: "800",height: "393"};})();

The Montgomery Advertiser is committed to the national Make a Difference Day campaign, a ?national day of doing good? that rallies millions of people across the U.S. in a single day to help change the communities they live in.
For its MADD project, the Advertiser has partnered with House to House, a Christian homeownership ministry, and will provide volunteer labor in a daylong work effort at three houses on Hill Street on Oct. 27. We?d like your help, too, knowing that we can do more good in greater numbers.
The Advertiser received a $5,000 grant from the Gannett Foundation for its Make a Difference Day project. A portion of that grant will go to House to House to purchase tools on its wish list so it can continue its work, said Sam Martin, publisher of the Advertiser. (The other portion will go to the Christmas Clearinghouse, to which the Advertiser has contributed previously.)
If your group or business would like to team up with us, log on to, or call Peggy Pearson at 261-1545. No construction experience is required.

House to House, a Christian homeownership ministry, uses several programs to address the needs of the Washington Park neighborhood and develop relationships founded on service to others, all through the love of Christ.
Among the ministry?s programs are life skills classes and renovations of neighborhood homes, which are then rented to residents.
Mentoring is the priority of House to House, and the first step. A mature Christian mentor is matched with a participant, and performs a financial evaluation to make sure the participant understands how to budget, and how to manage a budget. When the participant is ready, the mentor then goes to House to House and vouches for him, and the path to having a clean, safe, renovated home begins.
House to House then asks the participant for his needs ? the number of bedrooms, for example ? and finds a suitable home. House to House then asks one of its investor partners to secure a loan, and provides the loan proceeds to the ministry, which uses the money to purchase a house and fix it up. (volunteers help with some of the labor and donations of appliances and materials). After a few months, the participant can move in.
House to House pledges to pay back the loan with rent money received from the families it helps; it also pays all the taxes and insurance. The investor partner does not make money from the arrangement, but does receive the satisfaction of investing in the life of a deserving person.
Unlike Habitat for Humanity, the participants are not required to actually work on the houses, because they?re renting them. But they do get help choose paint colors and the like. After they move in, the mentor continues to help them with their budget, and also to understand what would be required to purchase the home from House to House.
The ministry isn?t that far along in the program just yet. House to House will not provide financing, but will prepare the participants to secure their own bank loans, with the idea that their mortgage payments would be similar to their rent payments.
The ministry will sell the houses for what it has invested in them.
For more information on House to House, log on to, or call 649-1534.

There?s a subtle change happening on Montgomery?s west side, even if some of us can?t see it.

Relationships are being built, slowly, between former outsiders who now call this place home and those who?ve watched this neighborhood decline over the years. Hopelessness is gradually beginning to lift. And, more tangibly, dilapidated houses are being fixed up and getting a new lease on life, a visual encouragement for an area that could use a little more of it.

This is the Washington Park neighborhood, the focus of a couple of intensive, hands-on ministries that are working to meet the needs of an area that is ?under-resourced.?

That?s the term used by House to House, the nonprofit Christian housing ministry that has put down roots here. It was originally a part of the older Common Ground Montgomery ministry, which is focused on youth development in the Washington Park area, but in 2011 became a separate, independent ministry, with its own board and its own goals.

Renovating homes is probably the most visible program of House to House, but mentoring is its most important. Mentors from the community work alongside the families in the neighborhood, helping the families learn needed life skills but also sharing the love of Christ.

?(Mentoring) is really the heart of the ministry,? said Mike Bunce, the executive director of House to House.

On a recent sunny day, volunteer crews were busy putting up drywall in a home on Lincoln Terrace, one of the current House to House renovations. The house is being fixed up and enlarged, and eventually will become home for Bunce and his wife, Susan, who have been approved to become foster parents. The Bunces currently live next door.

Bunce checks on the progress of the renovation with Don Hougham and Paul Sullivan, two of the dozen or so volunteers working here on this particular day. The group is from Crystal River, in central Florida, and is a part of the disaster relief ministry of Seven Rivers Presbyterian Church. They spent two years in Biloxi, Miss., and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Though their primary focus is disaster response, Hougham said that the lack of hurricanes in the last few years left them with skills that were going to waste, so they turned to inner-city ministries.

This is their ninth visit to Montgomery for House to House. The men, who are in their 70s and 80s, spend a week at a time, doing woodworking and drywall in the homes.

?When we?re out, we always say, ?we get more than we give,?? Hougham said.

But local groups also will find work to do in Washington Park. On the same day the Florida crew was on Lincoln Terrace, a group of seniors from Loveless Academic Magnet Program High School was working on interior demolition and cleanup of three homes on Hill Street as part of their day of service. More and more youth and church groups are volunteering, too, even for just a few hours on a weekend.

?We take very seriously the responsibility we have to make an authentic experience for them when they come to the neighborhood to try to help us,? Bunce said.

He knows that volunteers won?t develop relationships with the community in a three-hour, Saturday morning volunteer effort. But if they go home with the desire to do more, that?s OK, too. There?s plenty of work to do.

Common Ground Montgomery invests in the lives of urban youth, nurturing them with life skills and working to keep them away from the influences of the streets. It also works to connect the children with Christian mentors, who can be a part of their lives through and past high school.

After Bryan Kelly founded Common Ground in 2007, he asked for Bunce?s help in finding a house in Washington Park that was suitable for renovation. Bunce was the construction manager at The Waters development in Pike Road, but didn?t have much experience with older homes.

Even so, Bunce and his son, who was then 19, volunteered to help with the home when it was under construction. Through that experience, he got to know and admire Kelly and Kevin King, who also leads Common Ground.

?The first time I heard (Kelly?s) vision, I was struck by how different and how real it was, as compared to other people?s efforts to try to help,? Bunce said. ?It seemed like there would be only one way to help the poor, and he was doing it.?

At the core of Common Ground and House to House?s mission is becoming a part of the neighborhood ? that is, living in Washington Park, and developing deep relationships with the people who live there.

?We?ve just seen it be the most effective form of really helping the communities,? said Delta Kelly, the volunteer coordinator for House to House and Bryan Kelly?s wife. ?And ourselves.?

For Bunce, the seed was planted ? he wanted to do that kind of real-life, hands-on ministry work that King and Kelly were doing with Common Ground. But it took being laid off from The Waters for him to move forward.

Bunce went to Kelly and asked if he would want to do a housing ministry in Washington Park, to complement the work Common Ground already was doing. Kelly saw the need and was enthusiastic, but told Bunce he would have to raise his own support. He did so, and he and Susan eventually moved to the neighborhood and got to work. Now, House to House has a staff of dedicated, knowledgeable people.

?I have the peace of knowing that if I just keel over, they?re going to keep going,? he said. ?They understand this more than I do.?

Since its inception in 2009, House to House has enjoyed a largely low-tech, word-of-mouth, gradual kind of growth in the community.

?The fun part of it is when the whole community starts to catch the vision,? Bunce said.

As an example, Trailer World on Troy Highway just last week donated an enclosed trailer for hauling tools to the ministry.

?I love being caught off guard by that kind of generosity,? Bunce said.

That kind of support from the community will be crucial going forward.

?If we?re really going to try to reverse the chains of poverty, it takes a holistic, comprehensive effort,? he said.

When people ask, ?what do you need?,? Bunce can point to the need for economic development.

Can someone help with an urban garden, or with the coffee shop they?d like to open, or the bicycle shop? Those are all goals of the ministry.

?It?s hard to imagine how much unemployment is really the source of hopelessness that people have until you?ve been here and you get to know them,? he said. ?They?re not drug addicts and chronically homeless people. They?re people like you and me who cannot find a job.?

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