Lenora Jones has lived in her house in Homewood for 15 years, but being on a limited income, over time things she wanted to address—painting, drafty windows, a broken stove—all got beyond her ability to catch up.

That all changed Jan. 16, when service professionals and volunteers from AmeriCorps, arrived at her house and, over the course of three days, replaced her stove, put in new cabinets and flooring, and replaced windows—all for free.

WE’RE COOKING NOW—Lenora Jones stands in her brand new kitchen, thanks to the Sustainable Home Improvement Partnership, which renovated 14 houses in Homewood. (Photo by J.L. Martello.)

“I am so excited,” she said. “I was just asking for something small, but they said I needed a whole new kitchen, and they gave it to me. New floor, new countertops; it’s a really good thing.”

Jones is one of 14 homeowners in Homewood who benefited from the city’s Sustainable Home Improvement Partnership, which along with the Mayor’s office, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development will restore 70 houses over the next year thanks to a $500,000 award from the Home Depot Foundation.

Jones’ repairs, and those of the thirteen other homeowners, were scheduled to kick off the program on Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The ongoing effort is being coordinated by Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh, a nonprofit that works to revitalize communities by preserving affordable home ownership.

In its initial five days, the program repaired three roofs, upgraded five electrical systems, rebuilt one porch, completed four total kitchen remodels, replaced carpet in two homes, installed five new appliances, pointed and repaired three chimneys, and did substantial painting and drywall work in 12 homes.

Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh Program Director Alan Sisco said there is more to come.

“There is some concrete work that will have to wait until spring, but we also put in a number of new windows,” he said. “We’ll be there again, and other areas. We are working to leverage Home Depot’s contribution into another $500,000, get in-kind donations and hopefully some more local funding.

Sisco said outreach for the program began After Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Home Depot Foundation President Kelly Caffarelli announced the funding award in October. He said there were a number of applicants on the same block as Jones, so this cluster of 14 homes was chosen for the first renovations.

“We like to target clusters of homes because there’s a bigger benefit,” said Sisco. “We focus on concentrated renovations because doing a cluster of houses all at once benefits the neighborhood while benefiting the homeowners because you can see the results better than doing a house here and another there.”

Because the award specified restoring homes for veterans, disabled and elderly residents, Sisco said a lot of the work involved interior work like installing grab bars and handrails. They also installed about 20 new windows, he said, and they are not entirely finished.

“Oh yeah, they are coming back to retile my bathtub and bathroom floor and put in a window,” said Jones. “And they are putting in smoke detectors and doing some electrical. This is a blessing from God.”

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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