Leah Harris

Sprucing Up the West Side

100 volunteers from Revitalize Milwaukee repair and beautify homes.

By , Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service - Nov 13th, 2017 11:07 am
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Gloria Lee helps with landscaping as Revitalize Milwaukee volunteers repair her home. Photo by Leah Harris.

Gloria Lee helps with landscaping as Revitalize Milwaukee volunteers repair her home. Photo by Leah Harris.

Deirdre Kozlowski has lived in her home for 47 years. She moved in with her father in 1970 and they purchased the home in 1980.

Kozlowski said she loves her house in the quiet Miller Valley neighborhood. “It’s never been a bad neighborhood,” Kozlowski said. “People already have a lot of pride in it. They own their houses and take good care of them. No one is wealthy here, but they all care.”

Two years ago Kozlowski broke her pelvis in six places after a bad fall, and she now uses a wheelchair.

Volunteers in rain gear install a new porch during Block Build—Near West Side. Photo by Leah Harris.

Volunteers in rain gear install a new porch during Block Build—Near West Side. Photo by Leah Harris.

Last Saturday, Revitalize Milwaukee installed a small ramp to help Kozlowski move easily from her car to her house. The nonprofit provides free home repairs primarily for elderly, disabled and low-income residents, with the goal of keeping them in their homes and stabilizing neighborhoods.

More than 100 volunteers gathered on a rainy day to complete home repairs and beautification work on eight homes in the Miller Valley neighborhood. Two homes received new front porches and several homes received new ADA-compliant toilets and grab bars. Block Build is part of a year-round program that aims to repair one house every day of the year.

Sam Szukalski, a volunteer from MillerCoors, helped clean and sweep around Kozlowski’s house. “It’s so important to be present in the community,” she said. “This is a great way to give back.” Szukalski said the renovations and cleanup help make life easier for people who need assistance.

Block Build–Near West Side is sponsored by MillerCoors, AT&TWE Energies, the City of Milwaukee and Near West Side Partners.

“The partnership and teamwork to bring about this mammoth endeavor from area organizations, businesses and sponsors has been incredible and will leave a lasting impact on this tremendous neighborhood,” said Lynnea Katz-Petted, CEO of Revitalize Milwaukee.

Gloria Lee, who has lived in her home for 18 years, has been in contact with Revitalize Milwaukee for over a year. When the organization first stuck a big, pink envelope in her mailbox, Lee said she almost ignored it. But soon after, a representative contacted her and walked through the home as Lee pointed out needed repairs.

Lee raked leaves while volunteers repainted her porch, fixed unstable banisters and filled cracks in the side walkway of her house. Inside, broken electrical outlets and water leakage from the bathroom were repaired.

Lee said that the neighborhood is a great place to live. “They (Revitalize Milwaukee) can only make it look better than it already is.”

Since 2000, Revitalize Milwaukee has completed critical home repairs on more than 3,000 homes with the help of more than 7,500 volunteers and invested $14.5 million into Milwaukee-area housing. Revitalize Milwaukee receives more than 280 requests for help each month.

“I talk about them all the time because it’s a great program,” Lee said. “You don’t have to pay for anything; you just have to participate.”

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on eighteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

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