Guadalupe Corral likes to keep a tidy house. But this past Monday the main rooms in her home of two and a half years were in complete disarray— dishes were stacked on the table instead of in the cupboards, a large aqua ladder blocked off half of her beige couch set and tools were scattered in the bathroom around a medium sized hole meant for a sink.
But Corral couldn’t be happier because she knows the chaos is temporary. Once the workers leave she will have at least five items marked off her home repair to-do list—and all will have been done for free.
“I am very excited and very pleased with the people and what they are doing for us,” she said.
Corral is one of six homeowners selected in the 800 block of Sixth Street to have minor to major repairs to their homes made through the collaborative effort of The Lions Club and Rebuilding Together, a national non-profit organization that provides repairs and modifications to homes for low-income families.
In addition to the home repairs, the groups are also offering free vision screenings on site for residents and a catering truck to feed the volunteers. Anyone who needed glasses after completing the test was referred to the Lions Sight Savers Program, which provides exams and glasses to low-income residents.
Project Director Michael McDowell, a member of The Berkeley Lions Club and Rebuilding Together, selected the neighborhood based on recommendations from the city and other local non-profit organizations. McDowell also selected the six homeowners who would receive basic repairs to their home and property including gardening, painting, electrical repairs and maintenance work.
The average cost to repair each home was about $2,000 to $12,000, McDowell said. Some of the smaller projects include new fences, new wiring under the house and two homes received wheelchair ramps. Each home received carbon monoxide detectors, in addition to smoke detectors installed by the Richmond Fire Department.
Younger volunteers from the Lions group for high school students, known as Leos, cleared out debris from yards and other areas on the block.
McDowell said he’s wanted to complete a project of this magnitude for the last five years. The Lions Club District 4C3 of Alameda and Contra Costa counties raised $12,000 and brought out about 400 volunteers from various clubs to make the effort possible, he said.
“These people are pretty darn awesome,” he said about the hundreds of Lions Club members who showed up.
McDowell said, the neighborhood, which is a mix of African American and Latino families, is underserved, but overflowing with people willing to help themselves and create a better life for their families. “Before we got here everybody already came together and decided, ‘What can we do for our block?’” he said. “This is a place where we have neighbors helping us and helping one another.”
Already underway was the neighborhood’s community garden, an effort Corral said most of her neighbors joined with enthusiasm.
Corral said she’s excited about the new redwood fence being constructed in front of her home, but noted that the fence being built around the community garden “is the most important thing.”
Aside from the new fence, Corral’s bathroom sink and kitchen faucet were replaced; new trees were planted in her front yard and few minor repairs were completed inside the home.
Every change is significant, she said. “Nothing is small; everything they are doing here is big,” she said.