The R’town Youth Work Program employs up to 10 youth for four hours during the school year and eight hours per week during the summer. Youth are paired with senior citizens to provide services such as trimming shrubbery, mowing lawns, increasing the visibility and safety of seniors’ homes and more. As a collective group, the youth also maintain neighborhood common areas to beautify the area and assist with community events, such as the Wheelbarrow Festival.
“The neighborhood has certainly changed,” said Hubert Simpson, community outreach coordinator for RRC. “We’ve created a lot of positive development here, and it’s beginning to be seen as a good investment. Investors are buying property and fixing up houses. More families with young children are moving into the area. And youth are seen as positive contributors for the community rather than troublemakers. The community is very diverse now in terms of races and ages.”
In addition to the work RRC does with youth, it also helps community residents through their HomeOwnership Center, providing education for homebuyers and foreclosure prevention services. Additionally, the organization has an affordable housing focus, developing both for-sale and rental properties, and also provides property management services for the properties they own.
“We’re building community in a lot of ways,” said Natallie Keiser, director of operations. “We’re strengthening the neighborhoods with the leadership of the residents within the community.”
Since beginning work in 1989 in the Reynoldstown community of Atlanta, some of the major changes RRC has seen include a more diverse population and a physical change in the community.
“At one point there were many vacant lots and boarded up homes,” said Keiser. “Our organization has done 280 home repair projects in the community, built numerous homes and even some apartment complexes. Our work has spurred other investors to come into the area. Physically, the community has changed dramatically.”
RRC has seen changes from a relationship standpoint, as well.
“We partner with the Reynoldstown Civic Improvement League, the volunteer neighborhood association. Through our work together we’ve experienced improved relationships with the city, such as with code enforcement and the police department,” she said. “The community has always been a friendly place with engaged residents, but RRC has worked with residents to improve the overall quality of life.”
Reynoldstown has long had a strong community-building effort in which neighbors come together on Saturdays for neighborhood clean-ups. This type of clean-up enables them to work on their neighborhood together while getting to know one another in the process. The community also has a reunion each year in which residents that have moved away come back to visit, see their old neighbors and enjoy being together.
RRC is excited about helping more people as a result of their grant from The Community Foundation.
“Our previous funding limited us to a specific part of the community,” said Simpson. “The Community Foundation’s grant allows us to reach other areas of the community – broaden our scope and outreach.”
“We would like to continue the effort of working with the senior population, but expand our services so the young people can touch the lives of others in surrounding communities. We’d like to begin increasing our relationships with food banks and shelters, to see if we can help them and so that the youth can learn about the good work done through these organizations. The youth will then feel a sense of contributing to the greater community.”
In doing all of this work, RRC revitalizes not only the physical aspects of a community, but the spiritual as well, creating vibrant, diverse communities in the process.