Patricia Wrobel knows she can’t fix everything that is wrong in the city. But she also knows the only way to reach a goal is to walk towards it.
The director of the Levesque Institute at Niagara University is leading 25 community groups and residents in a project designed to clean up the city’s South End and help homeowners improve the housing stock there.
The three-year project is called the South End Initiative and homeowners and volunteers are being asked to sign up by Monday for the next event called “Rock the Block,” from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 16.
This week, Wrobel took a few minutes to describe the initiative, which included a light bulb giveaway last week:
QUESTION: You gave away light bulbs. Why?
ANSWER: It started on Earth Day. National Grid gave us 1000 LED light bulbs. We gave 982 light bulbs away. It was great. We put a table up near the store on Fifth and Ferry and people were coming all day. I can’t stress how appreciative everybody was. It was billed as “Light Up the Neighborhood,” and hopefully people will put their porch lights on at night, which makes everyone feel a little bit more comfortable when walking around as the nice weather comes. This will hopefully bring more life and light to the neighborhood.
Q: I heard your group also did a neighborhood cleanup prior to that?
A: Yes. April 21 was the Niagara University Freshman Day of Service. We had close to 100 students, and joining us were Niagara Falls High School students, which was great. They cleaned up the business district. We did Schoellkopf Park and up Pine Avenue from Portage to Third, and then Third from Main to Niagara and Niagara from Third to Seventh. We picked up 111 bags. The kids did a great job.
Q: What can you tell me about the event you have planned for May 16?
A: We’ve got our big Rock the Block on May 16. We’re hoping for 150 to 200 volunteers to do minor repairs, blight removal, landscaping and are hoping we go from blight to curb appeal. Our goal is at least three to five houses on each block so at the end of the day people can see a difference.
Q: Beyond the lightbulbs, what kind of response have you gotten from the neighbors so far?
A: Very good. I’ve been going to see the residents when they inquire that they need some work done. They are so appreciative of the help and they’re so committed to this neighborhood. That’s the thing that is so impressive. They’d like to see a day when it’s not just a third occupied, but when it becomes whole again. The goal is not to come in and do it for them but to do it with them.
Q: Who is involved in this project to heal the neighborhood?
A: We’ve got a great group of community partners. We’ve been meeting since June and we get 30 to 45 every month with both partners and residents. Home Depot has been a wonderful partner. They have a program for veterans and currently there are two houses they’ve identified that will be getting new porches, new sod, new landscaping and basement windows. It’s great.
Q: So the idea is you can’t fix the whole city at one time, so just start with a small piece?
A: Little by little, you take little steps and it gets you where you want to go. The charm in this neighborhood is unbelievable. You look at the character, you look at the millwork. When you look at some of these houses, they’re just beautiful and you say to yourself, how did the rest get where they are?
Q: Has this been done successfully elsewhere?
A: It has. You can look just in Buffalo on the West Side and in the Elmwood Village and even look in the Fruit Belt where they’re doing it now, all along the medical campus.
For more information, visit the Levesque Institute at Niagara University online at www.levesqueinstitute.niagara.edu or on Facebook.
IF YOU GO
WHO: The Levesque Institute at Niagara University with community partners and residents
WHAT: “Rock the Block,” a cleanup of several city blocks with minor home repairs, landscaping, energy upgrades as part of a three year initiative
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 16. April 30 is the cutoff for volunteers to sign up and homeowners to reigster for repairs
WHERE: 4th Street to 7th Street from Pine Avenue to Walnut Avenue, Walnut Avenue to Ferry Avenue, Ferry Avenue to Niagara Street
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Visit the Levesque Institute at Niagara University online at www.levesqueinstitute.niagara.edu or on Facebook