Block Build MKE - Clarke Square
Revitalize Milwaukee’s 2017 Block Build MKE – Clarke Square took place on May 19 and 20 and revitalized 19 homes on South 17th Street. It was a huge success. The volunteers were focused and heroic, the homeowners were grateful, and the block received a huge transformation despite the rainy and chilly weather on Saturday.
Saturday was the first time that it rained in seventeen years of doing weekend build projects. Revitalize Milwaukee’s mission is to revitalize communities by providing FREE, critical home repairs and comprehensive services to veterans, seniors and people with disabilities. “I take pride in my house, and I take pride in taking care of it inside and out, so I’ve maintained it over the years. I am so happy that Revitalize Milwaukee is here and taking care of all of the other homes as well as my own,” said Dora, current resident of Clarke Square in Milwaukee Wisconsin.
Dora has lived in the Milwaukee Area since she was 8 years old. This July will mark Dora’s 46th year living in her current neighborhood. She has raised two children in her current house, and she would not trade anything for the wonderful life she has.
Financial and medical challenges have taken a toll on Dora. As she has gotten older, her back and neck have become more fragile and her vascular migraines are reoccurring. This has prevented Dora from addressing the much needed repairs to her house.
Revitalize Milwaukee made dozens of repairs to Dora's home including installing a new mailbox, a solar light on the garage, a GFCI outlet by meter, a new electrical outlet in the basement, and a grab bar in the shower. Volunteers also helped by painting the porch, the living room, the trim on the balcony, and the fence. Numerous other tasks were performed inside and outside of the home to make Dora’s house safe and bring it back to life.
Dora is one of nineteen homeowners that benefited from the presence of Revitalize Milwaukee “We work to help our clients maintain a good quality of life when physical mobility limitations, poverty and diminishing resources interfere with their ability to maintain their home,” said Lynnea Katz-Petted, CEO of Revitalize Milwaukee.
“I just want to thank all the volunteers and Revitalize Milwaukee from the bottom of my heart for the work that they are doing,” said Dora.
The south side of Milwaukee has been seen as a scary and somewhat unsafe neighborhood, but for residents like Dora, the neighborhood has never felt safer.
For residents like Guadalupe and Armando, her grandson, and Nikki her caretaker, the neighborhood has had some issues in the past, but the residents have worked together to make it a safer community.
Guadalupe suffers from severe dementia, and rarely makes it out of the house these days due to lack of energy and poor physical health. Revitalize Milwaukee was able to build a porch with a wheel chair ramp, so that Guadalupe can enjoy the company of her family and other activities outside of her home.
“The biggest part of the project was the ramp. As Guadalupe gets older, taking her to the doctor is a struggle. Even for family events planned weeks ahead, if the weather isn’t nice or she’s too tired, she’s stuck in the house. The work Revitalize Milwaukee is doing is overwhelming and truly amazing,” said Nikki.
Home repairs are provided to those who truly need the help. Like Guadalupe, many homeowners are essentially trapped inside of their homes due to poor physical health.
During the 90s, Juan, Guadalupe’s husband, was an active member of the “Neighborhood Watch.” Juan passed away nearly 20 years ago. The Neighborhood Watch was a system the residents used to keep each other informed during a period of gang-related activity in the neighborhood. The residents looked after each other to preserve the value of the block.
Each of the neighbors contributes to the well-being of the neighborhood. Hosting a cookout, keeping an eye out for any dangerous activity, or even a simple hello is all a person needs to feel safe and protected.
One of the founders of the Neighborhood Watch, Dennis, is still a current resident. He believes that although the neighborhood watch isn’t as active as it once was, there are still conscientious people looking out for one another on the block.
Dennis recalled a time back in the 90s when the neighborhood was lively. “We would block the roads off for picnics in the summer time and sometimes 200 people would show up. New people in the neighborhood would get talking and start bringing their grills, get some roasts from the store with soda and beer, and have a good time.”
Dennis is a veteran and has owned his house since July, 1973. He will soon celebrate 44 years of living in his current residence. Dennis has lived in the neighborhood since he was a child.
Dennis is currently struggling with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), and rarely makes it out of the house. His wife was recently moved into a nursing home across town due to a stroke, and the two have rarely seen each other since due to his condition.
Revitalize Milwaukee built a large ramp that changed Dennis' life - he is now able to exit his home and visit with his wife in the nursing home. Volunteers also installed a solar light on the garage, various windows throughout the house, and a garage door and jam. Several other tasks were completed to ensure that Dennis could age safely in his home.
Dennis’ sister, Judi, is also a current resident of Clarke Square. She lives with her son Tony who struggles with cognitive disabilities and seizures. “There are some things that have changed about the neighborhood. It has become more ethnically Hispanic. However, the people themselves haven’t changed. People are cordial with each other,” said Judi.
As a current and longtime homeowner, Judi takes pride in living in her home, and greatly appreciates Revitalize Milwaukee for the work they have accomplished.
“This is an older home and a lot of things had gone wrong. I would never have been able to fix all the things this house needs. It’s taken me years just to get this far. Revitalize Milwaukee has been amazing and made our house much safer,” said Judi.
For residents like Judi, the neighborhood has been a warm and safe place to raise a family. Judi has been able to live comfortably with her children in her current house. She moved into her current residence in August of 1972.
Revitalize Milwaukee was able to install new kitchen lights, cabinets, a sink, a faucet, and a sprayer assembly. Volunteers also added two exterior lights at the front door, which have already made Judi feel much safer. A new washer was installed, along with a new front door, and handrails to the basement to help Judi and her son once again feel safe in their home that they love.
“I feel invigorated to get the garden going and I feel better letting people in. I didn’t always invite people in because of all of the problems. Now it feels like I can call my friends and say come on over. This used to be the house where everybody came to, all the neighborhood kids would come over,” said Judi.
Homeowners such as Dora, Dennis, Guadalupe, Judi, and the other fifteen homeowners are extremely grateful for the work that Revitalize Milwaukee has accomplished. Without our help, these homeowners would be living in poor and unsafe conditions. Most of the homes that benefitted from the 2017 Block Build MKE – Clarke Square were built in the mid to late 19th century, and needed updating and repair.
“Thank you to all volunteers for all your work. You truly have changed lives,” said Lynnea Katz-Petted. “This was truly a great experience with an amazing group of people.” Block Build MKE – Clark Square is one of five Block Builds Revitalize Milwaukee will be coordinating this summer and fall. Our next Block Build in association with the Sixteenth Street Community Health Center and Lincoln Avenue School with take place on July 14-15 on South 18th Street between Lincoln and Hayes Avenues.