A cornerstone of compassion: Celebrating Community Development Week one renovation at a time

single-meta-cal April 12, 2022

Rodney McCallie, a construction rehabilitation project manager with the City of Huntsville’s Community Development Office, knows home renovation projects take more than raw materials and construction know-how to accomplish.

For McCallie and his team of volunteers, construction rehab projects for Huntsville’s low-income senior citizens require the kind of dedication to community service that comes from the heart.

crews work rehabilitate home

Workers assist in a home rehabilitation project in northwest Huntsville on April 12, 2022.

That drive to help senior homeowners restore their houses to livable, sustainable conditions is in full effect as Community Development celebrates National Community Development Week, April 11-15.

This year’s theme, “Building Equitable Communities,” comes from the National Community Development Association, but McCallie and his team believe that building equitable communities is a year-long, never-ending part of their mission.

The City’s rehabilitation projects are supported through federal funding to cover the cost of materials. The labor is done by volunteers from the community.

‘We really needed it.’

Ellis Ford, 80, and his wife, Georgia Ford, 73, were selected as the recipients of this week’s home rehab project. McCallie and his team of volunteers will work every day this week to replace the rotten wood on the Ford home on Johnna Circle in northwest Huntsville, and will then wrap the new wood with vinyl siding. The City also plans to replace the roof in May.

The Fords agree that being one of the recipients of the City’s home rehab program makes them feel like valued citizens.

elderly couple arm-in-arm outside house

Ellis Ford, 80, and his wife, Georgia Ford, 73, were recently selected as the recipients of a home rehab project administered by the City of Huntsville’s Community Development Office.

“It feels good…very good [to see the repairs done],” Ellis said. “We really needed it.”

The Fords, who retired from Alabama A&M University and the Huntsville Surgical Center, respectively, were selected from among more than 100 applicants for the home rehab assistance program. McCallie says there are usually over 250 projects at all times from which to choose. To qualify for this assistance, applicants must be at least 62 years old, qualify as low income and own their home.

Many applicants are referred to the program by Community Development code officers who are investigating unsafe conditions. The local chapter of Habitat for Humanity also refers applicants to the City for consideration. Most of the projects involve roofing repair or replacing vinyl siding.

Even if an application is not immediately selected for the program, there are still options to explore.

“Our office doesn’t dictate which projects are selected,” McCallie said. “The volunteer groups who commit themselves to doing a rehab get to choose, based on the expertise and abilities of that group. If an application isn’t chosen within a year, I’ll try to find some [construction] experts from my contacts.”

If there are funds left over at the end of the fiscal year in June, the City hires professional contractors to complete projects.

“The need is always there,” McCallie said. “We always have more projects.”

A ‘magical’ result

The payoff for these rehabilitation projects is both tangible and heartfelt. These property improvements help enhance quality of life for area seniors while also growing property values and increasing safety. More importantly, the homeowners know they are appreciated and respected by their community, and volunteers get to see the impacts of their compassion-driven contributions on the well-being of others.

Many of the volunteers that help the City’s mission are faith-based groups that include youth volunteers. This is just one way Huntsville is growing the next generation of empathetic volunteers dedicated to building communities infused with potential and opportunity for all of its residents.

“When I see these youth interacting with and working for the seniors, the result is almost magical,” McCallie said.

National Community Development Week is just one opportunity in a year full of rehabilitation projects. If you or your group is interested in more opportunities to help, visit our website.


How federal grants are impacting lives of Huntsville residents

Giving back: Volunteers bring cheer to Huntsville homeowners