ReNew project aims to revitalize south side neighborhoods

More than 60 volunteers will be getting their hands dirty

More than 60 volunteers will be getting their hands dirty to help renovate dozens of homes on La Crosse’s south side. It is part of the Revitalizing Neighborhood Empowerment with La Crosse Neighborhoods project also known as ReNew.

ReNew volunteers will update 20 homes in the Powell, Poage, Hamilton and Washburn neighborhoods Saturday. Powell, Poage, Hamilton resident Rebecca Smith will have parts of her house made over.

“People wondered why I would buy a house in this neighborhood, but people need to invest in this community and be part of it,” Smith said.

When Smith bought the home five years ago, she did all she could to transform it.

“I got it painted, I put a new roof on, I put a new fence up,” Smith said.

However, with a young daughter and a busy work schedule, her renovation goals fell by the wayside.

“There’s supper, there’s laundry, there’s dogs, and I try but it get’s overwhelming as things pile up.”

This Saturday though, Smith will get some relief as dozens of helping hands makeover her home and 19 other south-side homes in need.

“We have a lot of volunteers, residents and ReNew committee members from different organizations all getting together to spruce up the neighborhood and homes in the neighborhoods,” Amanda Acklin, executive director Habitat for Humanity said.

Volunteers will fix Smith’s drafty windows and other energy problems in her house.

“The old furnace is getting replaced, so next winter it should be nice and warm in my house,’ she said.

A warped floor will get new beams.

“I figured that would take all of my savings right there,” Smith said.

Volunteers will fix a fence that has become a safety hazard for her daughter.

“It’ll be nice to know that if I close the door, or the gate that it’s closed and she’s not getting out,” Smith said.

Smith said it’s time for the south side to get a better reputation.

“All we usually hear in the news is the drugs, the graffiti, or the arrest that happen. We just hear the bad stuff,” Smith said.

And she believes the ReNew project could bring a positive transformation to the neighborhood she and her daughter call home.

“Investing in these people, these houses, these yards that’ll be contagious,” Smith said.

The majority of the work will be completed by this Saturday May 2, but it  will continue throughout the month.

On June 6, there will be a walking tour showcasing some of the homes that have benefited from the project.

In just three years ReNew has helped renovate more than 80 properties, most of which have been in the Powell, Poage, Hamilton and Washburn neighborhoods.