On Millard Fuller Drive in Minden, La., eight brand new homes are going up during the Millard Fuller Legacy Build. Even the street, the base of the new Legacy Acres subdivision is brand new.
The seven Greater Blessing repair projects are scattered about an older part of the neighborhood known for decades as Tompkins Quarters — on Walter Lyons Road, as well as Wilson, Camp and Bell streets.
For 91-year-old Valine Lee, the commotion of hammers and saws that erupted Monday morning was unexpected, along with the hordes of volunteers along the neighborhood streets, including at the home of her friend and neighbor Emma Quarles just a few doors down Bell Street. The sights and sounds are welcome to the spry Lee, who has called Minden home since she was 3 years old and has lived in the same house for more than 50 years.
"What I can see that they’ve done already, I’m just so proud of it," said Lee, who said her home needs repairs similar to those going on at the seven Greater Blessing sites in the neighborhood. "I didn’t know what was going on, whether an individual was just having it done or what. But I think it’s wonderful."
"I was raised in this neighborhood," chimed in family friend Margaret Gill from the other end of Lee’s front porch. Gill moved to the neighborhood when she was 5 and now checks on Lee every day.
Lee’s home has issues with her porch, her front door, broken windows and missing siding. Her home is a reminder that for all the wonderful work going on in Minden this week, there is so much more to be done here and around the globe.
"This community needed a makeover. It’s nice to see that. Wonderful. These are people who are just trying to keep the peace and just go on with everyday life. You get what you give. Thank the Lord for it. Everybody that’s getting a new home or a repair, that’s a blessing from the Lord."
Emma Quarles: ‘I’m so thankful’
Workers including Chuck Vogt of the Central Indiana Fuller Center, which hosted last year’s Legacy Build, were busy across the street working on the Bell Street home of Quarles, a Tompkins Quarters resident of 64 years who did apply for and receive assistance from The Fuller Center.
"I feel good about it, and I think all the rest of us feel good about it," Quarles said. "We couldn’t keep our houses up on account of age and sickness. I think everybody’s proud. I know I am. I’m thankful. I’m so thankful the Lord has answered my prayers."
But it’s not the work or the siding that Quarles speaks of the most.
"Everybody seems like they’re on a spiritual mission," she added. "Everybody is so nice. I just can’t believe how nice everybody is."
Charlie Park: Taking Tompkins Quarters to ‘another level’
Of course, decent housing has been shown to transform communities, and that’s what The Fuller Center for Housing is all about. Charlie Park, executive director, of the Webster Parish Fuller Center, said Tompkins Quarters is already a neighborhood on the rise and now is rising even higher.
"This neighborhood, according to a police lieutenant I was talking to early this morning, used to be seriously heavy in crime," Park said. "He said it has really cleaned up in the last few year, and we had nothing to do with that. But we can take it to another level — eliminate crime altogether and do it progressively and positively."
While Lee is thrilled for her neighbors and her neighborhood, she wishes she had learned about The Fuller Center for Housing and its Webster Parish covenant partner earlier. She believes she is a prime candidate for a Greater Blessing project.
"I know I need several things," she said with a sigh.
Fortunately for Lee and other residents of Tompkins Quarters, the Legacy Build, as massive as its scale may be, is only part of the story about the future of the neighborhood.
"There are lots of others houses in the neighborhood that need to be rehabbed," Park said. "We will try to encourage them to get into the Greater Blessing program and make that a whole Greater Blessing neighborhood."