Growing up in Cleveland’s Slavic Village neighborhood, I have great memories of a close-knit, family-oriented community where everyone knew everyone. Many people worked, lived and worshipped in the neighborhood and were passionate about calling it home. It’s a neighborhood full of history, where construction of the Ohio and Erie Canal led to industrial and commercial growth in the early 19th century. A large influx of Polish, English, Czech and Irish immigrants followed the arrival of heavy industry, bringing their culture to the area.
In 2007, everything changed as the Slavic Village neighborhood started to experience more home foreclosures than any other part of the country, resulting in large pockets of vacant and dilapidated homes. The unemployment rate, housing vacancy rate and poverty level remain much higher in Slavic Village than the rest of Cleveland and the United States.
Through all of this, Slavic Village is still my home today. My family decided not to leave in the hard years despite the economic downturn and housing blight.
My wife and I have deep roots here. Our parents and my grandparents lived here, and my father-in-law still lives in the house where my wife grew up. I remember buying our house and getting the keys on the day we brought our firstborn daughter, Mandi, home from the hospital. So many good memories.
When I heard that Lowe’s was joining Rebuilding Together to revitalize the Slavic Village community, I was thrilled and immediately signed up to volunteer. Lowe’s employee volunteers partner with Rebuilding Together across the country to help low-income homeowners and revitalize communities. To be able to give back and work with my Lowe’s family in Cleveland was inspiring. Over two days, 200 of us from 18 Lowe’s stores helped make critical repairs to several Slavic Village homes and helped revitalize The Haven, an emergency shelter that is truly a refuge to women and children in the area.
There are many people who need a way to get back on their feet after suffering a hardship and personal tragedy. The Haven is a much-needed resource in our area and a place of hope and promise – a helping hand. It was amazing to work alongside my Lowe’s family to participate in Building a Healthy Neighborhood. I’ve always considered my store as my second family and can’t express how fortunate I felt to be part of this effort. Even though it was just two days, we were able to bring hope to homeowners as we made flooring and plumbing repairs, painted and landscaped – tasks many of us take for granted.
The best part was seeing all of the people coming together for a common cause – to make a difference in somebody’s life and make the world a little better.
Together, we were able to transform homes and ultimately, the community – MY community.