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.
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.
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!
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!
Megan @ The Southern Nest 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.
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: http://tearinguphouses.blogspot.com/2009/07/tearing-up-neighborhoods-when.html
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:
Jane @ the Borrowed Abode 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.
Kasey at Thrifty Little Blog says
What beautiful work!
I think it’s a shame when housing in a city becomes so unaffordable that people with solid employment cannot own homes. Kudos to the Better Housing Coalition!!
Marcy Tate 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.
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.
Stories like these bring tears to my eyes. Really.
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!
We love contributing our time, skill and energy with Hearts and Hammers (http://www.heartsandhammers-dallas.org/). 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.
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.
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 :(
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.
What a great organization! And gorgeous houses to boot!
For me, CASA is an organization that is very, very close to my heart. CASA stands for Court-Appointed-Special-Advocates, and these are highly trained volunteers who are appointed to speak on behalf of children who are in foster care. While there might be 30 caseworkers, 6 judges, 3 attorneys, and 50+ service providers during the course of a couple of years that the child is in foster care, the goal is that there is only ONE CASA, who gets to know the child and their needs better than anyone else.
The Greater Chicago Food Depository is the 2nd largest food depository in the country, 2nd to one in NYC. The GCFD serves about or over 600 food pantires in the Chicago area. It’s a fantastic organization and run like a well oiled machine. I’ve volunteered their once and can’t wait to go back! Check them out at
Wow – what a transformation! I love the fact that instead of tearing everything down they preserve the existing structures. Great for history and character! For the past nine years I have been volunteering with the Dominican Dental Project. We provide dental services in to Dominicans in the mountains near the border of Haiti. Boy does it give me so much more than i give them. It is my peace for the year!
wow what amazing work they do! Such a wonderful charity to be involved with :) So nice to see a community being re-constructed like that.
I work in the city of Detroit….in a not so nice area. Everday I pass by a home that is completely destroyed. What saddens me more is curtains are still hanging and flap in the wind out of the broken windows. I think about the families that lived there and how sad it is to see this.
I wish I knew of some organizations around Detroit that are helping, but I think a lot of times they are lost causes because the city has so much to work on.
Those buildings are just gorgeous.
Around the holidays I help organize the Angel adoptions for our office. The rest of the year I support my friends in their causes. Wheather it’s for kids, or animals, or to fight deseases, I give a lil to them all.
Chelsey Simpson says
Great to see a community that is renovating without pricing lower and middle income workers out of the homes!
I volunteer for the Oklahoma Food Cooperative (www.oklahomafood.coop), which I think you two would really love thanks to your affinity for all things green! We are like a monthly, online farmer’s market, and ONLY local food and other products are available through our system. We are unique, and we are helping dozens of small farms stay in business and hundreds of Oklahomans get local and even organic food. I would like to encourage all your readers to think about what they could do for their community just by buying local!
your post reminds me of an article in today’s washpost (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/16/AR2009091600974.html?hpid=artslot)…
i like to volunteer my time, and do by tutoring kids at a homeless shelter. there’s nothing like giving back in order to better appreciate all that you have.
Jenny @ Mom of 2 says
That is awesome. I live an hr West of RIC in Cville. I used to go to Ric a lot for meetings and seeing the old delipated houses on the way downtown was so sad. You just knew they were grand in their day. Glad to see this happening! My dad was actually born in Ric many moons ago and they lived off of Monument Ave for years. Love Ric…great shopping and dining.
What a fantastic organization! I love that idea so so so much. Does BHC work solely in Richmond? I wonder if such an organization exists in Charlottesville… Thanks so much for sharing this bit of inspiration!
You have inspired me to get more involved in my local community!
Great to see a well-deserved shout-out to BHC here in Richmond – they definitely do good work. Another wonderful non-profit in Richmond is the Alliance to Conserve Old Richmond Neighborhoods (A.C.O.R.N. – but NOT the ACORN that’s been in the national news lately!). Also based in Richmond is Preservation Virginia, a state-wide non-profit that works to preserve historic resources throughout Virginia. All very good organizations with a fantastic mission – the preservation of our historic buildings and communities.
Sarah @ In A Dream says
Thank you for sharing this! What a great organization. Those houses are absolutely stunning now and I’m so glad they didn’t have to tear down the rundown houses, because that makes me so sad! Those new homeowners are going to have some great houses to live in! I don’t know if there is anything like that in the Twin Cities, but I’m sure there is. I should look into that…
Here’s a great one…
It’s called Good Works (http://www.goodworksinc.org/).
It’s a Christian nonprofit that ‘transforms substandard houses into warmer, safer, and drier homes; and despair into hope’ near Philadelphia. Low income home owners receive all repairs without cost and volunteers perform most of the work one Saturday a month through sun, rain or snow.
My husband and I give our time and financial support. It’s great to see everyone come together. Both the volunteers and the homeowners are blessed!
Such a great organization! It’s a sad state of affairs for the U.S when we cannot pay our own Firemen and teachers a decent enough wage when they do such important work.
Ryan Marie says
I volunteer by teaching life skills classes at a non profit in Central Florida called Helping Others Make the Effort (HOME). HOME provides temporary housing to homeless women and children. But it doesn’t stop there. Each woman is given a case worker to help her figure out a life plan that she will be accountable to complete. While on the HOME campus, these women develop life skills (taught by volunteer community members) that include money management, parenting skills and vocational skills. They also set up bank accounts and each woman obtains employment and works toward creating a nest eggs for her family. When the time is right, volunteers help each woman to find permanent housing.
Alyssa at Swiss Avenue says
I love organizations that help to maintain and restore historic housing. In Dallas there is a home tour where proceeds go towards the historic community and also towards building playgrounds throughtout Dallas.
I take my mom every year! If you are in Dallas during that time it is definitely worth a visit! http://www.sahd.org/hometour/
Wow those are amazing before and afters!!
My charities change from year to year, depending on what’s going on around me. I have supported AIDS and Cancer due to the loss of friends and their familys. Animals and abandoned animals are close to my heart, so I support some resue groups in MD and DC. My favorite at the moment is a group for children’s stroke, because my nephew had a stoke at birth :) And of course my favorite inspirational radio station and church because they help to keep me goin :) :)
I hope that soon I will be able to help out with some housing groups, because I agree homelessness (as well as the cost of living) is a big issue.
Great post guys!!!!!
I’ve always worked for non-profits. I currently work for an amazing organization called Talbert House. We are network of services across the region specializing in community corrections, mental health, substance abuse and welfare-to-work. We help people who have fallen on hard times or lost their way find housing, jobs, and get clean. We help them reintegrate back into society and give them the tools they need to succeed.
How gorgeous! And what a great thing to do to help areas as well. I hope that more people learn and take from this example. :)
What a great post and a worthy cause! It’s so true that having a home you adore is a blessing that far to many people don’t have. We have a charity program here in Boise called Paint the Town where every fall volunteers come together to repaint the exteriors of senior citizens or handicapped people’s homes and do minor repair and maintenance like gutter cleaning. We have something similar called Rake Up Boise which does the same but instead of paint we go around and rake the leaves for these folks. All tools and materials are donated by local companies and big corporations like Home Depot. It’s a great way to give back!
I LOVE what the BHC is doing in Richmond! Thanks for spotlighting such a great group!
Rebecca P says
One of the organizations that support is INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE MISSION (www.ijm.org). They work to put a stop to the international sex trafficking rings by empowering local governments to use the laws on the books in their own countries to bring perpetrators to justice and they provide after care for the victims who are rescued.
Paula Grace says
This is a great story. What an incredible job they do and bravo to you guys for supporting it. My local charity is the Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter (LAWS) http://www.lcsj.org/. They are a well rounded organization serving victims of domenstic violence. I am doing what I can to help with their current shelter but it is to small. They have been planning to build a new one but when the economy tanked so did their plans. I am thinking way out of the box to help that situation. I hope I am successful.
Wow, those home renos were amazing!! It is a real blessing to have a home. It’s also a blessing to have our health… Ever since our daughter was diagnosed as suffering a stroke in utero, I’ve been a huge advocate and volunteer for the American Heart and Stroke Associations. They have been a great partner in increasing awareness of pediatric stroke and helping me tell our story. I volunteer locally, but also lobby in DC each April. Volunteering helps me appreciate all that we have. And good for you for helping support your community, too!
How beautiful! I love old houses. I wish we had a group like that here. A lot of the old houses in the lower areas are falling apart with no help.
I love the renovated stairway.
Kari @ Foreclosure 2 Fabulous says
My husband and I moved to VA a few years ago for me to attend VCU – I loved Richmond so much when we lived there! It’s amazing to see this group renovating some of the underserved parts of Richmond. Kudos!
Jenny Barrows says
This is one of the most worthy causes I have heard about
in a while. Everyone deserves decent housing. Absolutely
heart rendering. Keep up the good work.
Cindy Bennett says
John & Sherry- What a great post! BHC is such an amazing organization, and really makes revitalizing a community such a tremendously positive thing- not just renovating buildings to condos and selling for top $$. The fact that they’re doing it sustainably and going with EarthCraft certification just makes me love them more! And, you got to meet Jane, who’s one of my absolute favorite people! :) Great work!
Great to see old neighborhoods brought back to life. We love our local Habitat for Humanity Restore, my husband is there at least once a week looking for bargains. Not only do we find bargains but all of the store proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity.
Vicki J says
My son went to VCU so we got see some of lovely old homes in Richmond on a regular basis… but we also saw the run down barely standing homes… it was sad!! It is always wonderful to see someone restore them to their orginal beauty!! What a great cause!
john m says
To help better observe the impact of BHC on my own neighborhood, I mapped and photographed the 90 or so BHC houses within a mile of my house last summer.
Almost 90 houses by Better Housing Coalition
Awesome project! Thanks so much for the link!