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North Holly Street Gets a Sustainable Facelift

September 27, 2012

A coalition of community organizations and more than 75 volunteers are providing home improvements and greening to the 800 block of N. Holly Street in West Philadelphia. At a Green Block Party Open House on September 29 at 9:00 a.m., volunteers and vendors will provide critical repairs for 20 homes, while greening and beautifying the block as a whole.  The program will also educate homeowners about how to make their homes healthier and more energy efficient.

The project is carried out by the Green Block Build Collaborative, a coalition of community organizations including Philadelphia LISC, Rebuilding Together Philadelphia, The Partnership CDC, and a wide variety of other community partners. It is supported by Drexel University, the Holly Street Garden Association, and the Neighborhood Advisory Council. The September 29 event will be the second Green Block Build held this year.

On N. Holly Street, the hammers are already swinging. The Green Block Build Collaborative began working with 14 homeowners on the block several weeks ago. To date, projects include replacing windows, installing siding, painting, plumbing repairs and repairing roofs. Nine homes on the block are receiving energy efficiency upgrades, courtesy of Lowe’s.

The Green Block Build Collaborative chooses projects based on the unique needs of each homeowner. For instance, volunteers are installing a walk-in shower for a resident with a physical disability.

One resident, Chantelle Harper, needed assistance with a dramatic cleaning project. Harper’s home, which has been in her family for over 50 years, was broken into while she spent some time away. “People broke in and squatted there,” she explained, “They stole things and left the house full of piles of debris. I filled up an entire dumpster, which was huge. I didn’t know where I’d get money for the second one.” Rebuilding Together Philadelphia is providing Harper with a second dumpster to aid her clean-up process, and installing new energy efficient windows on her house.

The Green Block Build Program developed from LISC’s Sustainable Communities Initiative in West Philadelphia (SCI-West), a comprehensive community development effort. The Green Block Build strategy grew out of the desire to address the interrelated issues of poverty and sustainability. Low-income households in the U.S. spend 17% of income on energy bills, 10% higher than the national average. Simple home weatherization improvements can dramatically reduce this number, saving low-income families money while reducing their environmental impact.

By introducing a wide variety of community partners to the work, the Green Block Build Collaborative addresses these problems more holistically. The program integrates critical home repairs that further help homeowners meet these goals. Participating blocks receive education and a suite of products and services designed to help each participant transition to a healthier life and home.

“This project truly demonstrates the importance of collaboration, which we prize in our SCI-West work” said Jamie Gauthier, Program Officer at Philadelphia LISC, “It shows the dramatic impact that each partner organization’s services can have on an entire block, by coordinating efforts. We are excited to continue this project and see its benefits in West Philadelphia.”

“I’m most excited that people just want to help,” said Harper. “I haven’t had a lot of help, so it means so much for Rebuilding Together to reach out and offer to help me. I’m looking forward to the unity this will build on our block.”

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