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Blitz-ing the neighborhood

More than 200 professionals and volunteers help Syracuse residents fix up their homes as part of Home HeadQuarter's Block Blitz.

For one day, more than 200 volunteers, including at least one contingent from S.U., descended on two small neighborhoods on Syracuse's South and West sides to renovate, rebuild and construct everything from homes to porches. Home HeadQuarters, the Syracuse nonprofit that organized the annual event it calls "Block Blitz", amassed large donations of paint, lumber, and labor from private and public companies for Thursday's volunteer event. 

Photo: Matt Porter
A volunteer from the Spanish Action League youth program paints plywood boards for vacant houses.

A house and a life

Danielle Smith is a full-time employee at Landmark Aviation and is also a full-time mother to 10-year-old Johnathan. Smith has lived on the West Side for most of her life, spending most of it in the same house that used to belong to her grandparents.

Today, the same house her grandparents owned, the one she was born in and the one she raises her son in has a lot of wear and tear. During the last three years she's lived at the Otisco Street home, Smith has replaced a roof, a ceiling and repaired two burst pipes during the winter months.

Home HeadQuarters has supported her for some of the repairs, including covering 80 percent of a $20,000 roof replacement.

"I work 40 hours a week," Smith said. "For them to be able to help out is great."

Today, she's paying it back. Smith helped the volunteers — all complete strangers — paint her house. She thinks programs like Home HeadQuarters can make a big difference to neighborhoods.

"Even the house right next door to us, it had a bunch of bushes and trees," Smith said. "Now you can see what's actually going on."

Smith described the house as a place where "not the best kind of people would hang out," and she believes by just clearing away the brush, troublemakers are less likely to hang out there.

Ali Jackson Popp, one of the events coordinators from Home HeadQuarters, said statistics back up Smith's idea. "Kids that live in an owned home rather than rent are more likely to do better in school and less likely to get into trouble," Popp said.

She also said putting people in homes they can afford in good neighborhoods has unmeasurable benefits.

Smith's son, John, also pitched in with the home repairs. He had only one request for the volunteers though: that they not change the color of the house. "I just like the way it is," he said.

Who showed up to help?

Volunteers and donations for the event came from a variety of places.

Anything not finished during the one-day Block Blitz will be finished later this month by Home HeadQuarters and hired professionals.

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