Dozens of volunteers got their hands dirty Sunday morning to kick off a month-long effort to revitalize homes in the Powell-Hood-Hamilton neighborhood in La Crosse.
The project is called ReNEW Powell-Hood-Hamilton, which stands for Revitalizing Neighborhood Empowerment with Powell-Hood-Hamilton.
Powell-Hood-Hamilton is bordered by Green Bay Street to the south, West Avenue to the east, Jackson Street to the north and Third Street and South Avenue to the west. It's one of the city's most historic neighborhoods, with almost half its housing stock built before 1940.
Originally, ReNEW Powell-Hood-Hamilton’s goal was to fix up 20 houses in a month's time. But now, volunteers are hoping to tackle more than 30 fixer-uppers.
Piece-by-piece, volunteers took down South Tenth Street resident Renee Miranda's deck.
As each piece was carried away, Miranda felt a weight being lifted from her.
"I can't thank them enough. They're doing things that I haven't been able to get done, or physically couldn't do, or financially couldn't do. And I feel like they've saved my house," said Miranda.
Miranda’s home was just one of the 14 houses ReNEW volunteers worked on Sunday morning.
Western Technical College student Keith Kaufmann is one of the 40 volunteers who spent their Sunday helping to clean up the neighborhood one house at a time.
"If people are having a bad day or if they're feeling stressed out, the best thing you can do is help other people. And it feels really gratifying to get done helping somebody and just to see how satisfied they are and how happy they are that they know that people are there for them," said Kaufmann.
For Miranda, it's a turning point.
"When things pile up to the point of being overwhelmed, then you kind of just give up and things just get worse and so you really don't want to have anyone over. It can be really isolating,” said Miranda. “I will be happy to have my friends come over and my family come over. And so it's going to be a lot better emotionally, I think, for me, too."
Sometimes a tidy yard is more than just a tidy yard.
Volunteers still have plenty of chances throughout the month to pitch in, ending with a big volunteer day and picnic on June 2. For more information on how to get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 608-785-2373, ext. 601.
Volunteers do not have to be Powell-Hood-Hamilton residents.
The ReNEW program is a team effort made up of multiple community groups.
The project is a partnership between Couleecap, Habitat for Humanity, the Powell-Hood-Hamilton Neighborhood Association, WisCorps, the City of La Crosse, the Neighborhood Revitalization Commission, La Crosse County, Viterbo University, UW-La Crosse and Gundersen Lutheran.
Organizers hope it will spread to other neighborhoods in the community in the long run.