Building Community on Almy Avenue
Some amazing changes have occurred in the past few years since Habitat Fresno’s Neighborhood Revitalization staff members committed to supporting the “41 and North Corridor Revitalization Plan”, a document residents of the area developed to help craft a vision for their future. Right from the beginning of the plan, the community members realized that it would not succeed without the engagement of local residents willing to make the commitment to support the plan and move it forward.
Mona Esparza, a resident of Almy Avenue in the heart of this target district, is such a resident. Mona has lived in the same house for more than 40 years, and her family also owns the house next door. Although she cannot imagine living anywhere else, Mona recognizes that the neighborhood is in dire need of improvement. Almy Avenue is riddled with pot holes, most houses have no sidewalk in front of them, and cars often speed through the neighborhood making it unsafe for children to play outside. As the mother of a son who is bound to a wheelchair, having him maneuver outside unattended is clearly unsafe. What the neighborhood needs are newly paved streets with speed bumps, better lighting, and an environment that is safe for all residents.
The 41 and North Revitalization Plan will bring significant improvements, some of which have started already. Mona realizes the importance of engaging neighbors in community development and she has taken a leadership role in her commitment to the community.
This past winter, she and members of her family were instrumental in the implementation of the Holiday Meet and Greet, where Santa arrived to entertain, share some pizza, and take pictures with the children in the area. Mona has generously offered her house for several community events such as movie nights, pop-up events, and block parties. She also holds weekly meetings at her home on the weekends so neighbors will be able to attend. “I am really excited about everything; I am so happy to see this neighborhood getting cleaned up and making us proud to live here,” she said.
It is because of residents such as Mona that building community spirit furthers the concept of building homes, building hope, and building community.
Special Saturday Volunteer: Chris Dorian
Chris Dorian is an example of what a true Habitat volunteer exemplifies: He loves helping people and he loves to swing a hammer. Chris became involved with Habitat through his church, Westminster Presbyterian, for an Apostles Build project, which also happened to be our 100th family served. The excitement of that build encouraged him to continue to volunteer, and as Chris put it, “I can’t think of anything I would rather spend a Saturday doing.” Helping to build homes on the weekends for families in need keeps him focused and mentally prepared for the work week. He feels that working outside, rain or shine, and pounding nails gives him the mental clarity for his job teaching law to court reporting students and for his law practice.
“Overall, I feel very blessed that God gave me this opportunity to help people and give something back to the community I’ve spend most of my life in, and I can’t imagine ever giving that up,” he said. Chris can’t wait until his son turns 18 so he, too, can join the Habitat team.
Donor Spotlight: Danny Leon
Danny Leon has been volunteering at the construction site for several years as part of a volunteer group from the Saint Anthony of Padua branch of the Knights of Columbus Council 6092. He and his team come to the job site approximately every six weeks for millwork with includes installing baseboard, door trim, shelving, etc. Danny’s involvement, though, does not stop there! Many times he has gone the extra mile, beyond investing his time at the site. Several years ago, his company, Leon Environmental Services, donated a new generator to the job site worth approximately $1,000 and they recently donated a new chop saw and portable table saw, also worth $1,000. Incredible!
Danny and his brother Tom Leon own Leon Environmental Services, an Asbestos & LBP consulting company.
Thank you, Danny, for your generosity in both time and treasure.
Gathering for Safety
On January 31st, Fresno Police Officer Paula Shute conducted a neighborhood watch meeting with 11 Habitat partner families from our Clara North Village and Echo properties. The meeting provided families with an opportunity to hear about safety tips on how to protect their home and personal property. This gathering also provided residents with a chance to meet each other and to share contact information in the event that a public safety incident occurs.