Partnership Gets the Job Done in Southwest Central Durham
By Darcie Borden
Clean Energy Durham’s Debbie Royster, Community Outreach Specialist for Southwest Central Durham, was proud this month to oversee a project that is revitalizing a neighborhood where some homeowners still remember her as a little girl. Debbie was raised just a block away from Gerard Street. When she was asked to be part of this project, Royster joked, “I couldn’t say no!”
The Gerard-Jackson Street Better & Beautiful Project is a partnership between Clean Energy Durham, Durham Community Land Trustees, Habitat for Humanity, and Self-Help, as well as dozens of volunteers. Support was also provided from the Duke University Community Care Grant Fund. These organizations want to get neighbors involved, create a sense of community and teach residents how to save energy and money.
“This project is a true partnership among like-minded non-profits and residents of the West End neighborhood,” said Dan Levine, Project Manager for Self-Help.
“The work being done in this neighborhood would take much longer and more resources if Habitat for Humanity were trying to do it alone,” said Miguel Rubiera, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity in Durham.
Because of the involvement of organizations like Clean Energy Durham, whose staff dedicated many hours to knocking on doors and meeting with neighbors, “we have a relationship with the homeowners, and to get these things done, you need that,” Rubiera said.
That relationship is crucial, according to Juanita McNeil, who has lived on Gerard Street for almost 60 years and is the block captain for community meetings.
“People see something going on, and they’ll be more interested in getting involved. It will enlighten them to be part of other neighborhood programs and take an interest,” said McNeil.
“There is a huge impact created when the people in the neighborhood are included and involved,” said Karl Hammond of the Durham Community Land Trustees, which has built and owns dozens of properties in the West End, including on Gerard Street.
“It has an impact because we work together, eat together and get to know one another,” Hammond said.
The work underway includes repairing homes, painting, power-washing, fixing fences, cleaning gutters and landscaping. “The goal is to touch each household with beautification and energy savings,” Royster said.