The neighborhood and the homeowners were selected by Project Director Michael McDowell of the Berkeley Lions Club for their need for basic repairs – including gardening, painting, electrical repairs and energy conservation – in collaboration with Richmond community leaders, including the city manager’s office and Planning Department, the Contra Costa Interfaith Support Community and grass roots activists. The neighborhood comprises mostly single-family, owner-occupied dwellings.
“All take pride in their homes and neighborhood; all are financially challenged to engage in the essential repairs needed to make their block safe and healthy,” said McDowell. “That is where the Lions come in; we have asked the community and fellow Lions Clubs for donations of cash and materials, and issued a call for volunteers to show up on January 16 to show through service how the Lions can help improve a community.”
The six houses require an array of repairs valued at between $2,000 and $12,000 per house. The smallest project requires new wiring under the house and a new fence; the largest projects requires a wheelchair ramp to accommodate a disabled resident. All houses require smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, several require carpentry and electrical repair, and a few need gardening and yard work, including the planting of new fruit trees.
In addition to the repairs, Lions volunteers from District 4C6 (Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Benito and Santa Clara counties) will provide their district’s vision screening van on site to offer residents free vision screening. District 4C6 also will bring their catering truck to feed the volunteers. Those requiring eyeglasses as a result of the vision exams will be referred to the Lions Sight Savers program, which is co-sponsored by all Lions Clubs in the Bay Area and the School of Optometry at UC Berkeley to provide free eye exams and eyeglasses to low-income rsidents.
“This is a wonderful event to commemorate the National Day of Service in the City of Richmond,” said Rochelle Monk, community affairs coordinator for the City of Richmond. “Over the past two years, the City of Richmond has collaborated with the residents of Sixth Street on community beautification and health and wellness projects. The Lions Club’s Rebuild Richmond project is a boost to a community of residents dedicated to improving their block.”
According to Richard Boyd of CCISCO, “The Contra Costa Interfaith Support Community is committed to empowering our communities. What a great example than to see the residents of Sixth Street get together and rebuild their neighborhood one block at a time. We are proud to partner with the Lions Clubs in rebuilding this community.”
“I appreciate the helping hand being provided by the Lions,” said Cheryl Vaughn, Richmond community leader for the targeted neighborhood. “I know it will take many people from many different places and walks of life to change things in this geographical space that I call home. This project and the resulting infusion of new positive energy is a great catalyst for that change. The project is tackling one of the big changes that needs to happen; that is, the physical environment, bringing life to dead spaces and the support to create more pleasant living environments. This is such a lovely gesture and will support people to feel better.”
“We are lending these neighbors a hand, not giving them a handout,” said McDowell. “The Lions are not just dropping by, doing a good deed and then leaving. We’re committed to helping the neighbors to help their neighborhood. Some residents have been here for generations, while others have been here just a few years. Regardless, they are working together to make their neighborhood safe and healthy. We are trying to bring them to the next step.” McDowell expects up to 150 volunteers to participate in the improvement projects on Jan. 16, including Lions members, local homeowners, friends and family.
Volunteers from the community and material donations from building materials suppliers are all welcome. The project still needs 9 yards of concrete, 8 yards of planting soil, two new hot water heaters and residential electrical services for two houses. Those who wish to donate cash, materials or to volunteer should call McDowell at 510-703-1101.