Volunteer group works to decorate blighted Rockford houses

News

Vacant, boarded-up houses are all too-common to Rockford residents, but one local volunteer group is working to help clean up their neighborhoods by fixing up vacant properties until the City can demolish them.

“We have a gentleman across the street who has been reluctant to have friends come over to his house for years, because of what sits out front,” volunteer Cindie Hall said as she took a break from cleaning up broken glass and overgrown weeds from a crumbling building in the middle of a neighborhood block on Main Street.

“There are a lot of board-ups and the City simply does not have enough money to demolish them all,” Hall said.

A volunteer group, called The Neighborhood Foundation, is aiming to change that by working on vacant buildings.

“What we’re doing is – and this was a sample – coming in, cleaning up the property, boarding it up with longer term boards that last longer,” Hall said.

They are also adding some colorful flair by painting vines and making vibrant boards to put up in place of the broken windows.

“The are decorative, so it is less of a blight on the neighborhood,” she said.

While the building makeover is intended to make the block and neighborhood a brighter place, Hall also says a concern for the residents and their well being is a driving force behind the project.

“Part of it is making it safe…that’s a place kids have been playing and here is this unsecured building next door,” Hall continued.

A project like this takes a lot of time to plan and execute.

“About 50 hours on-site, and probably about another 100 hours in prep,” she said.

The Neighborhood Foundation is hoping to get the people who live near vacant buildings to come out and help make them look nicer, at least until the City is able to demolish them.

“It isn’t a long-term fix at all. It’s something that’s a lot less expensive for the City to do. A lot of its volunteer hours so it’s something the volunteers, the neighbors can do, too,” Hall said.

The project is set to be completed in three days. The Neighborhood Foundation will be at 1920 Main Street from 8am to 5pm this week. They are still looking for volunteers. Anyone under 16 years old needs parental supervision.

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