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Pilot Program Spruces Up Columbus' Milo-Grogan Neighborhood

Volunteers coordinated by Habitat for Humanity have been working in Columbus’ Milo-Grogan Neighborhood. They’re not building houses, though; they’re doing maintenance that includes tree trimming, driveway sealing, gutter and siding repair. It’s a pilot program of Greater Columbus Habitat for Humanity, the organization that’s better known for the houses it builds for needy families. Michelle Castro Giovanni is Habitat’s local program director. “We are working on houses in the neighborhood – 17 houses and the 5 contiguous houses around those houses. We are going to landscape the houses, scrape the old paint off the porch rails and posts, put new paint on, power wash the houses and just freshen up the neighborhood,â€? says Michelle Castro Giovanni. Workers started at a Habitat home built in 1984. Carl Lee says he helped lay the home’s concrete block foundation. “This is the first Habitat home that was built in Columbus, Ohio,â€? Lee says. “This is the Habitat crew coming and restoring and they are doing this as a donation to the neighborhood at no cost to the homeowners.â€? A volunteer cranks up the power washer and begins washing away years grime. A few blocks away at a contractor’s headquarters other volunteers including nearby residents try their hand at other projects. All of them are enthusiastic; one of the residents beams with excitement. “My name is Winnie Jackson and my title is resident / owner in the Milo-Grogan area.â€? Q: Why are you so excited? “Because my house is going to get power washed,â€? Jackson says. “I’m just excited about Habitat coming and doing this. I can’t really afford to pay to have a lot of services done and they offered these and I’m just excited. Because I take pride in the neighborhood that we live in. I just want to see it look better.â€? This is a new undertaking for the Habitat organization says Castro Giovanni. “Typically what we do is we go in and we identify property that is available for purchase, and then we bring families, donors and volunteers, and materials and the construction experience into the project. We build our houses and then we leave,â€? Castro Giovanni says. But she says, under this pilot program, Habitat is joining forces with other businesses and organizations in the area. They’re asking residents what their wishes are. “If they want to see additional new habitat homes or rehabbed Habitat homes as a part of what has to happen in this neighborhood, then that’s what we’ll be responsive to,â€? Castro Giovanni says. “And so our hope is to engage as many agencies in the revitalization of Milo-Grogan as possible, so that it’s Habitat and many others that are making an impact in Milo-Grogan.â€? Inside the shop area of the contractor’s office, Milo-Grogan homeowner Claire Austin converts old pallets into flower boxes and Adirondack chairs. It’s the first time she’s ever used a circular saw. “I just turned 63 in April, and I’m having a ball! It’s sad that I had to wait ‘til my older age to learn how to have fun. This is fun. I really am enjoying myself,â€? says Austin.