Talk About Home Improvement!

A couple of weeks ago Sherry and I found ourselves house hunting in some of Richmond’s lowest income neighborhoods. We weren’t looking for Casa Petersik Part Dos, but rather trying to spot the handiwork of Richmond’s Better Housing Coalition. And let’s just say it wasn’t hard to see.

The Better Housing Coalition has been creating quality affordable housing in Richmond for over two decades. They first landed on our radar two years ago when we decided to share some prize winnings with a local housing charity. We asked a few non-profit-involved friends who they thought was a worthy cause and everyone said their name. Every single person we asked! Handing over some much deserved cash to them was a no brainer, and it felt so good.

And their name popped up again recently when they invited us to take a tour and see some of their good work in person. Who are we to pass up a chance to see some inspiring before and afters? Especially when they’re for the greater good!

So T.K. and Jane from the Better House Coalition drove us through Richmond neighborhoods like Church Hill, Union Hill and Manchester perusing streets peppered with homes that could use some love… and ones that the BHC had already shown some TLC. Whether they’re restoring an existing structure, building something from scratch or planning entire communities, they create beautiful places that real people (teachers, firemen, nurses) can afford to live in, even on a modest salary.

And they’re not just any old cookie-cutter houses. They’re sure to stay true to the historic character of their neighborhood and more recently are being built sustainably, including Earth Craft certification, which means these homes set the eco standard and require far less energy (and utility payments from their lucky owners).

During our tour we heard lots of impressive facts, feasted our eyes on lots of beautiful homes and saw that there’s still lots of work to be done. The tour reminded us that having a home to love is a blessing to be grateful for…. and that we’re extremely grateful for organizations like the BHC who are taking on the task of reviving old neighborhoods and passing that blessing along to the lucky new homeowners.

Long story short: we’re honored and excited to continue our support of the Better Housing Coalition here in Richmond. And while we’re on the subject of supporting local charities, we’d love to hear about groups in your area that do any and all work that you’re proud to support. When it comes to passing the buck (in an oh so good way), who gets your hard-earned benjamins or your volunteer time for that matter? Spill the good samaritan beans.


  1. Amanda V says

    What a beautiful way to help the community!! This is truly inspiring.

    And what a transformation on those lovely homes!! So glad to see history come alive again.

  2. Megan says

    I love that the houses/structures have maintained the great historical integrity of the areas while upholding a 21st century standard for energy usage. Driving through my town, it makes me want to begin a similar effort to help get houses up to par “green-wise” and aesthetically (and often just practically — it’s incredible to know how many people are living in dilapidation and squalor, trying to simply feed and clothe their families); and this area is just between rural and suburban, an all-American town. I’m sure we’ve all experienced the feeling, driving from the “nice parts” into the “not so nice parts.”

    Thank you for the inspiration to start reconsidering this little project that’s been bubbling in the back of my mind for awhile now!

  3. Krista B. says

    I have a few…

    When it comes to housing, here in Asheville there is a non-profit called OnTrack, they are a source for financial education and counseling. But they offer an education course for $35 first-time home buyers. We learned alot from this class and the home buying process. Each week they had someone come in and speak to the class such as a closing attorney, an inspector, real estate agents and some banks and mortgage companies. They are wonderful people there!

    Another local housing non-profit is Mountain Housing Opportunities. MHO’s mission is to build and improve homes, neighborhoods, communities–and lives–and to build hope and dignity in the people we serve. Seems alot like Better Housing Coalition. I’ve only heard great things about them!

    But living here in Asheville there are many great local non-profits that support the arts, animals, and environment.

    I work close with many organizations and non-profits that support cancer research and assistance since I am employed by the American Cancer Society. I think volunteer work brings out a different light in people!

  4. says

    What an awesome charity…It is such a great thing to give back to the community that you live in.

    In Memphis, I support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital with $$ and platelets. It is such an amazing cause and a great asset to my community.

  5. says

    What an interesting post! I’ve heard of these folks, so it’s great to see what they’re up to.

    I’d love to see something similar done here:

    In terms of non-profits, I donate to a number of organizations all having to do with children including Hope House, Kids In Distress, Covenant House, The Elyria Comic Initiative, and Operation Liftoff to name a few. If you’d like more information on any of these groups, please let me know. They can always use help!

    You can read about my adventures volunteering at a local childrens’ shelter here:

  6. says

    I’ve loved what they’re doing for Richmond ever since I lived right down the street from Manchester at the end of Semmes Ave. (Sidenote: Both my pups hail from the streets of Manchster, too.)

    Church Hill and Union Hill are doing great, and I’m hoping that the Manchester area will continue to develop. They’ve got such a cute downtown block or two that really could be like a mini-Carytown.

    In Alexandria VA my fave group is the Carpenter Shelter, a homeless shelter that offers childcare, tutoring (children and adults) and resume/job interviewing prep services to help the adults get back out in the working world. They’re taking a holistic approach to cure the ailment rather than treat the surface wounds, so to speak.

  7. says

    I agree with Amanda V- your story is so inspiring and the before and after pictures are wonderful. What a great job these people did for the homes and the people in the community. Great story.

  8. says

    I work on Habitat for Humanity homes every summer. It is fun, you learn things about home construction, and a nice family gets a new house….talk about an all around winning situation.

  9. says

    Wow- as a Historic Preservation student it is very impressive to see what Richmond has done in these neighborhoods! I certainly wish that places such as Charleston, SC would take a similar steps! For a city that prides itself on its historic appeal, they let so much of it fall to ruins when they could be revamping it like Richmond to create not only safe and affordable places to live, but jobs as well!! And the more I think about it.. they could easily turn some of the ruins into vacation rentals to help re-rev the cities tourism as well!

  10. says

    We love contributing our time, skill and energy with Hearts and Hammers ( The homes targeted for improvement are identified by the city. Companies and organizations select a house to rehab based on the amount of work needing to be done. This allows folks in the real estate industry (like my firm) to work on homes in very bad shape because our our employees’ skill set, while a local youth organization can tackle a house that merely needs painting and weeding.

  11. says

    Wow. that is my dream job. Renovation houses that are otherwise abandoned. Any chance they would come to the Philadelphia area? I could find a couple streets with great architecture that need lovin.

    I’ve actually emailed you about the charity I am involved with. I work with Deserving Decor, a non profit group of interior designers and volunteers who clean, furnish and decorate transitional houses for homeless family in the Bucks County area. A lot of our clients are mothers and children from the local women’s shelter who are trying to start a new life. It really is a great cause.


  12. says

    Wow – those homes are gorgeous! :) My husband and I were just driving through our old hometown the other day, and it is so sad. Lovely, lovely Craftsman and Sears houses just falling into completely disrepair. There are so many empty homes – so many families without any source of income but government assistance. The city has been dying since before we even left (1994), but it’s just so sad to see the buildings empty and falling apart :(

  13. MC says

    I think it is great that you guys are supporting a non-profit!

    In these economic times, I find myself supporting small arts organizations, more than usual. These are wonderful places (not large established institutions) that really need support. Where would we be without the arts?

    In Ohio, I support Actors’ Summit Theater, a small professional Equity theater located in historic Hudson, Ohio.

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