As Roberto Gutierrez works tirelessly on a Saturday afternoon to improve a neighbor’s house, he knows he is not alone. By his side are other volunteers who have come together to help their neighbors. With a smile on his face, Roberto recalls the moment he saw his own home renovated, which included new siding and improvements to his walkway. He remembers feeling inspired by the possibilities that these new updates would mean for his family, and he is glad to help other homes in his neighborhood get renovated as well.
Like many of the homeowners in Floreciente, Roberto is a first-generation immigrant from Mexico, who moved to Moline in 1995 in order to be closer to his brother and sister. Roberto, who lives with his wife Graciela and works for a local bedding company, is no stranger to the importance of volunteering. As a board member of the Floreciente Association, the neighborhood group, he has worked hard to improve the lives of the people around him by helping promote the programs and services available to his community.
As part of the Floreciente Association, Robert cooperates closely with the Flourishing Communities program. Run by Global Communities, the program mentors the neighborhood group as they organize monthly meetings and other activities to promote unity, community, and culture in Floreciente. It was at one of these neighborhood meetings that Roberto first heard about a new Habitat for Humanity Quad Cities program funded in part by a grant from Flourishing Communities. The program allowed qualifying homeowners to receive low-cost assistance through a new home repair program. Roberto excitedly told his wife about the great news he had just received. Roberto’s home, like many of the households in the Floreciente, desperately needed a siding repair that he and his wife could not afford.
Later that week, Roberto and his wife filled out an application at the Habitat for Humanity office and found out that they would be put on a waiting list along with a few other homeowners from their neighborhood. This worried Roberto, as he had heard that the wait for some Habitat for Humanity programs could often take more than a year. However, thanks to the funds made available through the Flourishing Communities grant, Roberto and his wife found out that they would receive assistance after only a four- month wait.
“It felt like we were given a better home and a better future.” – Roberto Gutierrez
Habitat for Humanity’s partnership with Global Communities began in October of 2016, when the Flourishing Communities program started a small grants program to empower nonprofit organizations working in the Floreciente area to implement innovative programming. The timing was perfect, as Habitat for Humanity had recently selected Floreciente to be the first neighborhood for a newly established Neighborhood Revitalization program. The comprehensive initiative, aimed at addressing more than just building single family homes, also aims to establish a program to address other infrastructure needs of the community, such as internal and external home repairs and small scale beautification activities.
Through the Global Communities grant, Habitat for Humanity has been able to provide more than just an affordable home repair program; it has been able to address several of the neighborhood’s most salient needs, such as the health of senior residents, environmental safety, and even the neighborhood’s overall curb appeal. The grant has also helped encourage community engagement as participating families are required to provide sweat equity hours on Habitat for Humanity projects, so many end up helping neighbors with their homes as well.
“Fixing the other homes didn’t feel like work because there were always friends and neighbors there by your side helping you with everything.” – Roberto Gutierrez
It was precisely this service component that Roberto found the most rewarding. He felt happy as he realized that he could work alongside his family, friends, and neighbors on projects that would help beautify his community. More than 500 sweat equity hours have been generated by the Flourishing Communities grant. The grant has supported five Floreciente households, impacting 47 individuals. However, a closer look reveals that the grant’s impact on the community is much larger. Because of the Flourishing Communities grant, Habitat for Humanity was able to leverage additional funding from other organizations, including the City of Moline, and also helped create volunteer opportunities, which included the participation of multiple John Deere volunteers.
Following the successful implementation of the program, interest has continued to grow and there are currently 14 new projects identified in Floreciente. As part of the Flourishing Communities extension, Habitat for Humanity will receive another $25,000 that will guarantee assistance to two additional homes and will ultimately improve the lives of more people like Roberto.
At one of the Floreciente Community Meetings this year, Roberto candidly pointed out that the program’s impact on his life was great, but he knows there is still a lot of work to do, and with the support of neighborhood and partnering organizations like Global Communities and Habitat for Humanity, the possibilities are endless.
Funded by the John Deere Foundation through October 2019, the Flourishing Communities program is working in Floreciente to create long-lasting, community-led change by organizing residents and business owners to participate in community development decisions affecting their neighborhood. For more information on our programs in Moline, Illinois contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.globalfloreciente.org.