SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The June 1st, 2011 tornado killed three people and left several communities in western Massachusetts devastated. Springfield’s Old Hill neighborhood was among them.
Since then, the community came together for another year of rebuilding, restoring and looking towards the future.
On Saturday, the Revitalize Community Development Corporation gathered 1,200 volunteers for the fourth annual GreenNFit block rebuild.
Colleen Loveless, president of Revitalize Community Development, told 22News, “We’re focusing on making the home safe, healthy and energy efficient. That’s why we call it GreenNFit.”
This year, over 90 sponsors funded their efforts, and instead of working on one block, they took on two.
A little bit of paint and some volunteers can go a long way on one home, but ultimately, the initiative aims at rebuilding almost 300 homes in the area. That includes cleaning up vacant lots, playgrounds and planting community gardens.
Volunteers also worked to install new roofs, hand railings, steps, ramps, and trim up the trees.
Some volunteers, like Dolores Culp, had their own homes hit by the tornado. “The tornado hit my house. I had insurance, but Revitalize came over to help me.”
Others, like Jennifer Brantley, grew up in the neighborhood. “I truly like to give back to the community, and also my grandparents lived in this neighborhood for over 50 years, and when I heard about this I immediately said, ‘I have to help, I have to give back to the community.’”
Volunteer Justina Loadholt said, “I definitely enjoy working out here, and helping families get their houses set up, so they can enjoy it. I mean we live in a cold world, so to speak. Not a lot of people get help. So to be able to be a part of something like this is amazing.”
For the affected residents like Helen Mayes, it means having a home. “I can’t say thank you enough. You know it’s just awesome. The neighborhood needs it…really.”
Revitalize CDC is in its fourth year of a ten year plan to rebuild homes in the area.