14 May Transformation Montgomery revitalizes abandoned neighborhoods
Think back on the neighborhood you grew up in. For many of us, there are memories of neighbors carpooling, sharing meals or simply talking at the mailbox. There are children riding bicycles and playing games in the yard. There are families who depend on one another, share life together and build a community together.
Unfortunately, many neighborhoods across Alabama, once thriving with community and activity, have been abandoned. Such is the case for Garden Square in downtown Montgomery. A once-flourishing community, Garden Square is now nearly deserted, with little to offer its residents.
Enter Transformation Montgomery, a faith-based community development organization that originated at Frazer United Methodist Church to change lives locally and internationally. Three years ago, church members began Transformation Montgomery to provide affordable housing to the city’s working poor while investing in the community of Garden Square.
Growing one structure at a time
Now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with its own board of directors and entities, Transformation Montgomery’s mission is “Transforming our city one family, one house, one neighborhood at a time through affordable home ownership, holistic life skills training and relational community renewal.”
In the first year, staff members met with city government and local agencies in addition to partnering with the North Precinct and neighborhood associations. They started acquiring houses in the neighborhood and now have 15 that were sold to the organization or donated by the city or homeowners.
“We want this neighborhood to be more conducive to living and raising a family,” said Rusty Taylor, one of the project managers. “This is about transforming lives in addition to transforming homes.”
After acquiring a house, Transformation Montgomery arranges for volunteers to help with repairs and restoration. Volunteers replace openings such as doors and windows, install new flooring and HVAC units, replace countertops and improve landscaping, which often takes months.
Once a home is fully restored, potential homeowners pre-own, then become owners and buy the house at no interest. They have partnered with Family Promise, an organization that helps homeless people by paying a portion of rent until they are self-supportive new homeowners.
Mission attracts APSO volunteers
Upon learning about Transformation Montgomery’s mission, Hailey Frederick, Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO) Southern Division Chapter president, wanted to get involved.
“I was actually at our Kaboom Playground project and talked with the parking attendant. Through my conversation with her, I learned about Transformation Montgomery and knew this would be something our chapter could get behind,” said Frederick.
Partnering and restoring homes with Transformation Montgomery is now a signature project for the chapter of Alabama Power employees who have adopted a Garden Square house. Once a week, APSO volunteers will work at the site, removing debris, and assisting with repairs and landscaping.
“It’s really a blessing this house came to us at the same time as APSO. With Alabama Power stepping up, we agreed to let them take the house from start to finish,” said Thomas.
In the first week, APSO volunteers exceeded the expectations of the Transformation Montgomery staff.
On their first day, volunteers cleaned out trash, furniture and personal belongings from the previous owner. After all of the debris was removed, volunteers took to removing rotting tiles, carpet and linoleum as well as all countertops and cabinets.
“Rusty told us it would have taken them three months to do the work that we did in less than three hours,” said Frederick. “It really shows the power of a team.”
Frederick sees this signature project as an opportunity to get more volunteers invested in helping their city.
“APSO volunteers are passionate about serving, and we are especially passionate about our community. We are not afraid to jump in and get our hands dirty,” said Frederick.
As far as volunteer numbers, Frederick has a plan for that, too.
“If I can get a new volunteer out here, it opens the door for them to continue to be involved. They are more likely to come and help out in the future after serving with us on a project like this,” said Frederick.
Expanded work through partnerships
Transformation Montgomery has plans for Garden Square that go beyond each individual house repair.
The organization has acquired a building that will be a community center with a staff, after-school programs, adult education, job training and a meeting space for recovery groups.
“We want to create an environment where people can own a home and help get the neighborhood on its feet,”said Thomas, adding that through partnerships like the one with APSO, Transformation Montgomery will be able to continue to make progress.
“The more relationships we build, the more progress we make,” said Thomas. “We appreciate all of the work APSO is doing to support us.”
Frederick and the APSO team are excited to continue working with Transformation Montgomery after the first house restoration is completed.
“After this house, we will start on the next one,” said Frederick. “We’re going to help transform this community. It’s about giving someone a safe place, a roof over their heads. That’s what APSO is about: changing people’s lives.”
This post was originally published on Alabama NewsCenter.