Habitat for Humanity sprucing up the neighborhood

BY HOLLY KESTENIS, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG – Each year when Martin Luther King, Jr. Day rolls around, residents swarm downtown for the parade and family fun activities. But a good portion of folks also spend months planning how they can give back to the community on the MLK Day of Service.

Habitat for Humanity spends a great deal of time and effort all year long helping families build homes. And on Monday, Jan., 16, their plan is to spruce up a south side neighborhood by painting sun-faded homes.

Linzy Wilson

Linzy Wilson

“We’re really looking forward to having this day on and not a day off,” said Habitat for Humanity Volunteer Coordinator Linzy Wilson.

In conjunction with the Neighborhood Preservation Partnership program, volunteers will take the day to revitalize worn out homes and get neighborhoods looking nice for the new year. Homeowners were already identified to receive assistance, but after receiving a grant from the MLK Day of Service, Habitat for Humanity decided to gather the troops and hit as many houses as they can throughout the day.

“They were already going to be getting painted at some point,” said Wilson, who was in the process of recruiting volunteers. It’s just a great fit to put this together with the MLK event.”

Homes targeted will be in the Melrose/Mercy area, which will be in close proximity to the parade, so volunteers can still find time to attend the festivities.

“There’s definitely a need down there,” she said. “A lot of the homes are older and need revitalizing.”

Habitat for Humanity was awarded $5,000, which according to Wilson will help cover most of the cost of supplies such as paint, caulk and brushes. With about 80 projected volunteers, she’s also hoping to find a local eatery to donate food, and has discussed maybe taking money from Habitat’s own budget to furnish t-shirts for those helping out on the day of service.

Wilson plans to pull volunteers from the existing Habitat volunteer base and will team up with members of Leadership St. Pete Alumni Association, who will provide bagels, donuts and coffee to volunteers from their organization who plan to help out.

“When we have a project like this, it’s easy for us to mobilize a large group of volunteers,” said Wilson, who has many options to pull from to gather volunteers. Not only can she recruit from St. Petersburg College (SPC), but many who’ve painted previously for the organization are signed up to take part in the special event. Overall, she expects to recruit roughly 80 participants.

Although Habitat for Humanity has coordinated many events in the past, this is the first year they have partnered up with SPC for this particular type of day of service. Wilson hopes to apply again next year.

“I’m always looking for a really good way to mobilize a bunch of volunteers and engage them in volunteer activities on MLK Day,” she said. “I think this is a great way to do it and to have funding to help support the materials is a win, win.”

Volunteers for the day of service event are pretty much set, but Wilson encourages anyone who is interested in being a volunteer on other projects they are working on to contact Habitat for Humanity.

“We’ve got a lot of stuff going on,” said Wilson. With 54 homes under construction this year throughout Pinellas County, there will be many more opportunities for folks to get involved. “We’re grateful to the volunteers that help us out.”

The Day of Service event will run from 8-2 p.m. along Walton St. S, with Stewart -Isom Memorial Church set as the meeting grounds. To get involved in volunteer opportunities, visit www.habitatpinellas.org/volunteer for more information.

Please send your MLK Day of Service project photos to editor@theweeklychallenger.com by Jan. 17.

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