UD Blueprint Communities partnership helps communities in need
9:44 a.m., Dec. 12, 2013--For Javier Paula-Bouldin, what did it for
her was the day an elderly resident in her community, stricken with
cancer, was slapped with fines for failing to properly maintain his
Paula-Bouldin — a business owner with an engineering degree, a mother
of two and a civic activist — got to work in her New Castle community
of Simonds Gardens. She knew many of its residents were older and on
fixed incomes; home repairs were a challenge.
Two years ago, she became the leader of her Blueprint Community team,
an initiative of the Federal Home Loan Bank (FHLB) of Pittsburgh in
partnership with the University of Delaware’s Center for Community Research and Service (CCRS), and worked tirelessly to figure out how to help her neighbors.
Simonds Gardens recently celebrated efforts to revitalize more than a
dozen homes. The Blueprint team, in partnership with Habitat for
Humanity of New Castle County, helped low-income homeowners complete
everything from roof repair to house painting and installation of new
shutters, mailboxes and gutters over the course of the last year.
“To see their accomplishments … is just extraordinary,” said Raheemah Jabbar-Bey, assistant professor in the School of Public Policy and Administration and co-principal investigator with Steven Peuquet, director of CCRS, of the Blueprint Communities Delaware Program.
The FHLB of Pittsburgh started the program in 2005 to help
neighborhoods, communities, cities and towns in Pennsylvania and West
Virginia achieve their goals of thriving and growing sustainably. The
bank approached CCRS in 2007 about formalizing a Delaware partnership.
“We were very honored the bank’s vice president and director of the
department of community development understood and valued the work the
center has been doing for [over] 40 years in community development,
housing, nonprofit management and community engagement,” Peuquet said.
The center manages Delaware’s Blueprint Communities and provides
teams with the training and technical assistance they need to come up
with plans. Faculty, staff and UD graduate students in CCRS work with
the teams as they plan and implement their projects.
Simonds Gardens became certified as a Blueprint Community in 2008.
Once its team was established, it got to work surveying residents,
holding focus groups and developing plans. Paula-Bouldin said these
plans include creating programming for youth, promoting community
advocacy and improving homes.
The team has changed shape several times over the last several years,
Jabbar-Bey said, yet it has been successful at drafting plans
representative of the community’s needs.
Civic leaders in Simonds Gardens had already been working to help
their neighbors. But Paula-Bouldin said the waiting list of people in
need was growing. There was more work to be done than the community
could achieve on its own.
The community applied last year for a mini grant to complete some of
the work, she said, and was disappointed when that grant was not
However, it was soon uplifted to learn its housing revitalization
plan was competitive for an even larger award through the FHLB of
Pittsburgh’s Affordable Housing Grant. But first, residents needed a
larger nonprofit partner.
“We ended up partnering with Habitat for Humanity, which was only in
Wilmington at the time,” said Paula-Bouldin. “And we won a big check.”
The beauty of their proposal, Jabbar-Bey said, was that the Blueprint team and civic association had already been active in the community.
“They knew a lot of the seniors were on fixed income and had helped
replace some gutters and sidewalks,” she said. One requirement of a
Blueprint Community is that it show the capacity to get work done and
have a strong foundation of local leadership.
The grant of $56,000 was awarded last December, and Habitat matched
it. The community went to work, quickly, and completed the project in
less than 12 months.
“It was one of the best experiences ever,” said Paula-Bouldin, in
spite of the longs hours and endless phone calls and emails her role has
entailed. “We went from total strangers with an idea of what to do, to
bringing it full circle. It created such a warm feeling.”
And she said the recent work brought the community together. Those
with skills and talents put them to good use, donating their time and
abilities. Local roofing companies and others donated time and
Other neighbors, inspired by the efforts, began improvements of their
properties, too. The community has nearly 250 homes, most of which were
originally built in the 1950s for veterans of World War II.
Notes taken at the celebration Nov. 15 by CCRS graduate student
Hannah Beesley, who helps coach the team, show the work was profound for
the residents it served.
It “changed me and my family life forever,” said homeowner Conceleta
Berbick. Another resident was thrilled to have a mailbox for the first
time, and another felt safer after a new fence was installed in her
backyard to prevent people from traipsing through it.
There are currently seven Blueprint teams throughout the state,
including Edgemoor, Wilmington’s Browntown and Eastside communities, and
For Jabbar-Bey, seeing another successful project is inspirational
and confirms the work CCRS is doing. On Nov. 12, Wilmington’s Eastside
celebrated a commitment to completely renovate and rehabilitate 125
homes over the next five-to-seven years and make them available for
current renters and new homeowners.
Jabbar-Bey said, “If this doesn’t show their growth and development
and their capacities … for two Blueprint teams in one week to
demonstrate such monumental accomplishments — positive change can happen
that is community- and stakeholder-driven and supported.”
And that’s what is most profound for Jabbar-Bey, clearly passionate
about her work. The center isn’t doing the work for communities in need.
It’s simply helping citizen volunteer leaders reach their goals,
without government or social service assistance.
“I think our center, in providing the training, the technical
assistance and coaching, helped them to gain new skills and know how to
use it, and to provide opportunities to learn and implement what they
learn,” Jabbar-Bey said.
“They’re doing this, not us.”
More on the Federal Home Loan Bank program:
There are 12 Federal Home Loan Banks around the country, which are
federally sanctioned organizations established by Congress during the
Great Depression. They provide funding to U.S. financial institutions
for small business, agricultural, rural and economic development lending
and for home mortgage loans.
Each bank is a cooperative, owned and governed by financial institution members. These include savings and loan associations (thrifts), commercial banks, credit unions and insurance companies.
Article by Kelly April Tyrrell
Originally published by UDaily