Contrary to commonly held belief, small groups and individuals can make a difference. Residents in the Blue Ridge neighborhood are a good example.
They advocated for a paving project, the results of which they found cause to celebrate.
Seventeen of the residents met 14 months ago for a front yard potluck on Lowden Street. City Manager Nabiel Shawa and City Councilmember Steve Moss joined the group to talk about the neighborhood’s needs, said J. Andrew Rodriguez, director of Commitment to Community with Blue Mountain Action Council, in a release.
High among their concerns was a nearby dirt road rife with potholes along the railroad tracks. Children walking to and from Blue Ridge Elementary School travel that route. Residents stressed the children were forced to slog through mud and water on that road in rainy weather.
A public transportation van also contended with the potholes, Andrew said.
Residents attended a City Council meeting to request assistance with neighborhood needs.
After completion of the paving project, the neighbors gathered on Sept. 8 to celebrate completion of the paving project that resulted from their advocacy.
At the celebration neighborhood leaders, Javier Garcia and Selma Castillo addressed guests during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Both thanked neighborhood residents and project partners.
The Sherwood Trust and city of Walla Walla collaborated with C2C to make the project a reality.
Approximately 50 residents from all three neighborhoods where C2C works attended the celebration. Also attending were Nabiel, Councilmember Riley Clubb, city representatives from the fire, police and parks and recreation departments and representation from Walla Walla Public Schools.
C2C builds grassroots leadership in neighborhoods and develops the capacity in people to reach their goals and dreams, Andrew said.
A recent management and occupancy review of Blue Mountain Senior Housing by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office resulted in a superior rating.
The inspection, which took place in mid-June reviewed the safety, cleanliness, and maintenance of this BMAC housing until. In a letter from the West Regional Director, it states" Your dedication to maintaining decent, safe and sanitary housing is evident in the Superior rating the project has received. We value your role in furthering the Department's goal to preserve affordable housing."
Affordable, safe housing is a pillar at BMAC. We appreciate all our team members for contributing to this success!
Everyone, at any age, can help better their community!
Last week, nearly thirty community members, including neighborhood leaders and city officials gathered in Washington Park to tackle a neighborhood alley clean up, organized by our Commitment To Community team.
The group worked hard, filling 3 dumpsters provided by the City of Walla Walla. Their commitment paid off and resulted in a cleaned and beautified alley!
The joint effort generated substantial neighborhood pride and deepened social capital within the members of the work party.
Washington Park Residents Celebrate a Neighborhood Success!
Residents of three neighborhoods served by Commitment to Community (C2C) and members of the greater community gathered for a potluck in the Washington Park area on Sunday, July 22nd. The gathering marked the celebration of the success of a Washington Park group of residents that advocated for the installation of a much-needed stop sign at the intersection of 7th and Paine. The stop sign, wanted by neighbors for several years, became a reality after C2C Organizer Delia Gutierrez facilitated a neighborhood meeting between City engineer Doug Eaton and residents. Mr. Eaton came to the neighborhood to listen to the concerns of the residents and discuss traffic control issues. The collaborative effort resulted not only in a stop sign, but in the creation of relationships between neighborhood residents, and the City. The group was led by Washington Park resident Marta Venegas.
“Es importante que nos juntemos para celebrar nuestros exitos” (It’s important that we come together to celebrate our successes) Ms. Venegas said. “Nosotros tenemos el poder para mejorar nuestros vecindarios y nuestra comunidad” (We have the power to improve our neighborhoods and our community).
Approximately 41 residents of the three neighborhoods attended the potluck. Representatives of the Walla Walla Police Department, Parks Department, Walla Walla Community College and the Sherwood Trust also attended. The event was also an occasion for a reunion for several members of Congregation Beth Israel who last year worked together with residents on a Washington Park alley cleanup project.
Commitment to Community’s work is focused on building the capacity of neighborhoods to thrive by developing the capacity in people to reach their goals and dreams. C2C strives to strengthen social capital in neighborhoods while developing engagement opportunities for and with the greater community. C2C currently works in the Edith & Carrie, Blue Ridge, and Washington Park neighborhoods.
Article from the Union Bulletin, July 8, 2018
If you’re going to spend a year building a house by hand, it helps to know that it was for an exemplary cause. That’s the case for students in Walla Walla Community College’s carpentry program, who build houses for the Blue Mountain Action Council’s Carrie Avenue project.
Each year, the students build a house from the ground up. Years ago, these were large, upscale houses. But for the past two years, WWCC has built smaller, affordable homes in partnership with the Blue Mountain Action Council.
“There are many benefits to the partnership between BMAC and the WWCC carpentry program,” says Blue Mountain Action Council’s Pat Adams, who is also a WWCC graduate. “The biggest benefit being neighborhood improvement while providing affordable housing to the community.”
The Carrie Avenue neighborhood has been a “pet project” for the Action Council for several years, according to Adams. With the help of the nonprofit Pomegranate Center, BMAC has been able to add a park and a community center to the neighborhood, as well as three homes, two of which were built by the community college’s carpentry students. Today, one of those houses is a group home for low-income people with mental and physical disabilities.
“I felt great about building for a charity organization like BMAC,” says Shane Luke, who graduated from the program in June. He helped build both of the Carrie Avenue houses and now works at Dovetail Studio in Walla Walla, which specializes in custom furniture, cabinets, interior remodels and functional art pieces
“My father was a carpenter my entire life, doing general contracting,” he recalls. “Growing up, I thought I would never be a carpenter. I saw him break his back all those years, and I didn’t see any reason why I would want to do that.”
But after spending five years as a wind turbine inspector, Luke lost his job when the company he worked for went bankrupt, and he decided to try college.
“When I found out about the WWCC carpentry program, I knew it was something I could focus on and take seriously,” he says. “At first I had a hard time being a student because I knew I could go right to work doing construction and making money. But I got a lot of financial help from the college, which upped my spirits. And I even loved my homework, and learning all the technical things.”
Another student who loves the program is Clint Beck, who will graduate later this year. In fact, he loves it enough to commute 57 miles each way from his home in Hermiston, without ever missing a day of school or being late to class.
Beck is a nontraditional student with an extensive background in the building industry.
“My dad was the biggest builder in Eastern Oregon when I was growing up,” he says. “So I always thought I would be a builder. My dad built 109 houses, and I worked on most of them, cleaning up job sites, framing houses and putting on siding. So when I was 18 and the business went bankrupt, my dreams of taking it over were dashed.”
Beck went on to establish his own contracting business in Louisiana. But in 2008, when the economy crashed, his business too went bankrupt.
In 2010, he, his wife and four sons moved back to Hermiston. He worked at the Boardman Tree Farm for five years, doing security and driving fork lift. On night shifts, he walked the perimeter, picking up enough cans to earn him $2,000, which he invested in two building lots, planning for the future.
Then the farm was sold, and the employees were laid off. But because of a North American Free Trade Agreement certification that the jobs had been lost to overseas companies, Beck was eligible for two years of retraining, with unemployment, mileage and tuition paid for. Those resources allowed him to enroll in the carpentry program.
Although he had a head start in the building trade, has already obtained his Oregon contractor’s license, and serves as a mentor to younger students in his class, Beck emphasizes that he still benefits from the program.
“What I brought to this class was a lot of knowledge about building,” he says. “But even though I built 30 houses and oversaw hundreds of guys doing that, I was really lacking in the hands-on. I wanted more working knowledge of framing and doing the trim, and I got that here. I’m 48, and I’m still learning.”
Armando Maldonado is the instructor who has made all of this happen. He teaches his students everything from grading to laying the concrete foundation and subfloor, to framing the walls, making the rough openings of the windows and doors, and setting the trusses.
“On a real-world job site, you need to hurry up and get the job done,” Luke explains. “In the program, you can cut three boards wrong until you get them right. We’re not under pressure because we have a year to build a house, which is plenty of time to learn to do it right. That’s what I really loved about the program. And there couldn’t be a better instructor than Armando.”
Maldonado is known for being an exacting but patient teacher.“I like trying to help people and encouraging them to be a better person in life. I do that as a teacher, as a volunteer firefighter, and as a Little League coach,” he says.
Maldonado does have a wish list. “If only someone would donate just one lot for us to build on and sell the house, after three to four years the program could be self-sustaining,” he says wistfully.
For now, the program enjoys the benefits of building for Blue Mountain Action Council.
“The use of local subcontractors and suppliers benefits the local economy,” Adams points out. “Many of these contractors donate time, materials, and speak or offer specific instruction to the students. Providing a quality education for future builders and business leaders of the community is very beneficial as well.”
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