James Edward Jamar lives in what could easily be a historic home because it was built a half-century ago in the Terry Heights community.
Mayor Tommy Battle and Community Development Manager Scott Erwin consider Jamar’s home an asset because it’s a critical link between Huntsville’s rapid growth and its roots.
Jamar recently celebrated his 91st birthday. Like other senior homeowners, he struggles to tackle home maintenance projects because of physical limitations or lack of financial resources.
That’s where the City of Huntsville’s Community Development Office comes in. The department administers a Deferred Home Maintenance Repair Program that helps homeowners make much-needed repairs by pairing federal Community Development Block Grant funds with volunteer labor.
Those resources recently helped Jamar and his next-door neighbor stay in their homes a little longer.
“It makes me feel really good, like I’ve done something right somewhere,” Jamar told Mayor Battle during a visit to Jamar’s home.
The Mayor praised the work of the volunteers and Community Development officials who brought Jamar some holiday cheer.
“The great thing about this is volunteerism,” Battle said. “Mr. Jamar has a great house here, and it’s an asset to the City. We’re able to bring it back up to where it’s very livable and will be an asset for many more years.”
Kindness of strangers
These projects are second nature to Community Development. Last year, the department organized workers at 100 sites, or about one every three days.
“We always have individuals from faith-based and civic groups who like to give back,” Erwin said.
Volunteers are organized by Rodney McCallie and Rob Peavy with Community Development. McCallie said about 95% of Community Development’s volunteers are from churches, though other organizations, such as Boy Scouts, often lend a hand.
In the case of recent projects, McCallie expected only nine volunteer workers. He was pleasantly surprised when 15 came to help.
“This is a dream team that was put together with short notice,” McCallie said. “They built a metal accessibility ramp first and then started replacing rotten wood around the house. … Huntsville is blessed with volunteers.”
Common repairs include exterior work on fascia board, painting and roofing. Other jobs can be as simple as basic yard cleanups.
“This program makes a major impact on the lives of our citizens as well as our volunteers,” Erwin said. “It allows some of the most important residents in our community to stay in their homes and it improves the value of the community. Youth groups come in during the summer to use it as a teaching and learning tool.”
Erwin encourages any groups interested in volunteerism to call his office at 256-427-5400.
“We have projects all year long,” he said.
Click here for more information about Community Development’s housing programs.