Niagara Gazette

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March 17, 2013

Reconstructing Niagara: The Isaiah 61 Project rebuilds vacant homes, neighborhoods and lives

NIAGARA FALLS —  They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.

— Isaiah 61

As the story goes, the young carpenter, just beginning his career as a spiritual leader, went into a temple and began reading aloud from the old testament. The verse that Jesus chose was Isaiah 61, from the Old Testament, about how cities will be rebuilt. 

As Jim Haid recounts it, that was the Bible story that inspired him when he was seeking a name for his plan to teach construction skills to the unemployed, rebuild vacant homes and revitalize neighborhoods. It seemed to make perfect sense to name the program the Isaiah 61 Project. 

Some might say the faith-based program is already a miracle of sorts.

Haid marvels over the many hands that have been extended to help the program since it came to life in October. Apparently, many see the potential in providing hands-on training of trade skills to those who wish to make better lives for themselves and their families. In the process, abandoned homes are renovated and sold to families who wish to be homeowners, which fortifies communities. 

From local churches to contractors to politicians, Haid said, everybody is “bending over backwards” to make sure this program succeeds. If there were ever a win-win idea, this one just might be it, not just for Niagara Falls, but as a model which might be followed in struggling cities across the country, according to Haid. 

Just recently, the program was given $200,000 by the Oishei Foundation, a stamp of hard won credibility for its potential.

Haid began the project with not much more than his own extensive experience at faith-based non-profits in Lockport. The money gives him the chance to impact more students and more abandoned property. Another hand comes to the project from the University at Buffalo where law students are assembling a grant to try and win more money for the program, which would further broaden its reach and impact.

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