Changing Lives: Celebrating Community Development’s successes

single-meta-cal April 4, 2024

The work that changes lives tells the story of the City’s Community Development Department. Simply put, they help those who need help.

Could anything be more rewarding?

Not to Vernetta Watkins. She came to Huntsville from Houston, Texas, 20 years ago to care for her ailing mother. Her mother’s house in west Huntsville had fallen into disrepair and needed a new roof.

The insurance company rejected her claim. With no money of her own to pay for the costly repairs, Watkins was left to stave off leaks with tarps across the roof. Still, rainwater found its way through the roof and damaged the ceiling inside the house.

The deteriorating house also needed new siding and the wheelchair ramp was dangerously slippery. Watkins needed help.

She applied for assistance from Community Development and is overjoyed with the results.

“They have done a beautiful job, just beautiful,” she said. “It’s something I wouldn’t be able to do myself.”

woman in red shirt smiling with man standing behind her

Vernetta Watkins was thrilled with improvements made to her home through the Community Development Block Grant program.

‘Helping those in need’

Stories like Watkins’ are celebrated annually during Community Development Week, typically the first week of April. Improvements are made possible through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program and the City’s CDBG Home Maintenance/Rehabilitation Program.

Community Development oversees a group of dedicated volunteers who give their time to help those who are struggling.

“This is the 50th anniversary of the CDBG program and the 25th anniversary of the City’s Maintenance/Rehabilitation Program,” said Scott Erwin, the City’s Manager of Community Development. “To help those in need is one of the most rewarding parts of our job. And I can’t thank the program volunteers enough for their work and how those efforts have changed lives.”

To Watkins, the work done by Community Development volunteers can’t be overstated. Besides the roof and siding, improvements were made to the wheelchair ramp outside her home.

“My insurance company decided they weren’t going to do the roof,” she said. “And for three years, I just kept on putting up something to keep the rain from coming in.”

Watkins had the good fortune to meet Rob Peavy, a housing rehabilitation specialist for Community Development.

“I was so very happy and grateful to meet Rob Peavy,” she said. “I filled out some papers and they assured me they would do something.”

Now Watkins is eager to tell everyone about the repairs made to her house.

“That’s my testimony,” she said. “I’ve met very nice people that have come out here. And I would tell anybody and everybody about this because that Community Development is a wonderful department.”

Learn more about Community Development here.