Fighting Poverty with Passion
The Freret Neighborhood Center was very excited to welcome the Tulane Americorps VISTA team to the Freret Neighborhood on February 27th, and they helped with a few projects around the neighborhood. I really wanted to give my co-VISTAS a bit of background about the different projects they helped with and the two particular neighbors involved. We so appreciated everyone’s hard work and positive attitudes, and welcome everyone back at any time!
One of the first projects we organized was the painting of Mr. Linward Martin’s porch. We know him by ‘Brother Martin’ at the Center. He’s a member of our Seniors Connecting group — a group for the seniors of the Freret and Milan neighborhoods that is run out of our space. The group meets together every month and holds a luncheon with all sorts of delicious foods, birthday cakes, musical performances, and visiting guests. Our seniors also organizes events that take place outside of our neighborhood — bus trips to restaurants or casinos, their annual Christmas party (I’ve only heard stories of dancing on tables). Mr. Martin is a long-standing member of this group, as well as the FNC’s Advisory Board. He frequently comes out to meetings to support our efforts and show solidarity on the community’s behalf. One of my favorite FNC success stories of the past year can be attributed to his efforts. There was a large overgrown lot right next to his home, and he was very uncomfortable with it. Its owner had never returned to take responsibility for this property after the storm. Brother Martin came to us asking what he can do to hold this city accountable for this property. He felt that it was unsafe, unsanitary, and bad for the neighborhood in general. Two previous staff members, Eva and Clara, worked with Mr. Martin to reach out to the city and have this issue addressed. It worked — and this lot is now being maintained and cut every few weeks. We were so happy that the we and the VISTAS were able to help Mr. Martin out by priming and painting his porch, and he was incredibly grateful for everyones efforts!
Ms. Lucille is another neighbor who received some help from the amazing VISTA team. She’s one of our original founders! She had a hand in opening the Center and putting our programs into place. Additionally, she is one of the co-founders / co-leaders of our Seniors Connecting, and organizes their monthly meet-ups. She also previously served on the board of Neighborhood Housing Services. Needless to say, she has been an integral part of our community and our history. Ms. Lucille is one of the first people we call when we need help — whether it be at an advisory board meeting, to volunteer, or to help with any other tasks or advice we’ve needed help with. She always remains calm, cool, collected, and classy. I could write many more paragraphs explaining why I have so much respect for this woman, and we were therefore incredibly happy to be able to give back to her for being such a wonderful ally. Ms. Lucille stopped by the FNC last week and we asked if she needed any help with anything around her home. She mentioned that she was going to paint the fence and the steps in the back of her house on her own. We were so happy that the VISTA team was able to get out there and save her a lot of work and effort, and she was so appreciative.
Two other groups of volunteers were able to help with tasks specific to FNC / NHS needs. One group helped to paint over some graffiti in the back of the NHS parking lot. For the past year, there have been many complaints from neighbors who live on LaSalle street as they watching this graffiti get worse and worse. My co-worker Yasin worked with local youth to write a grant proposal to State Farm, and in it they outlined the plan for a mural project that would foster leadership in our youth community and beautify an area of the neighborhood. Our amazing VISTA volunteers helped to prime the wall for this project. Our other VISTA group got dirty in our previously terrifying backyard. Shoutout to Tom for leading these efforts! They cleaned up some of the weeds, set up some garden beds and plants, and did other magical things that transformed our backyard into a place not even slightly embarrassing to us — quite the improvement.
Again, we are so thankful for the efforts of the VISTA team!