By Rebecca Wallace
In 2011 as the economy was starting to recover from the great recession, the congregation of St. Paul United Methodist Church started a capital program to make repairs to its beautiful 116-year-old sanctuary. The church decided that if it was to raise funds to make repairs to its church home, it is the congregation’s Christian duty to raise funds also to assist neighbors who are struggling to make essential repairs to their homes.
Thus, the St. Paul Good Neighbor Project was born. In the 11 years since, St. Paul has helped numerous local homeowners. The church funds repair costs, but more often provides the skills and labor – through its members – to make the repairs, frequently with help from neighbors who volunteer to join in the work. As the years have gone by and Grant Park has been gentrified, the project has gone beyond the confines of the neighborhood to as far as the Gresham Park area.
Good Neighbor volunteers have constructed things from wheelchair ramps to an entire porch, replaced rotting floors, and repaired leaking roofs and plumbing fixtures. The goal of the Good Neighbor Project is not historical renovation; rather, it is to make basic repairs for financially strapped neighbors to remain in a safe and secure home.
The Good Neighbor Project is also part of St. Paul’s special collaboration with the Stewart Center in the nearby Pittsburgh neighborhood. Like so many intown neighborhoods, Pittsburgh is undergoing a transition towards gentrification, which traditionally pushes out economically disadvantaged people. One of the missions of the Stewart Center is to rehab existing housing to enable longstanding members of the community to own a home and stay in their community. The Good Neighbor Project has participated in this rehab effort, which allows the Stewart Center to rent the houses for as low as 30 percent of the Area Median Income, an uncommonly low percentage. The members of St. Paul take great pride in supporting this program.
Located at 501 Grant Street, St. Paul UMC offers weekly services on Sundays at 11:00am in person and streamed live on our Facebook page, @stpaulgrantpark. Should readers know of a homeowner in need of basic repairs to keep their house safe and secure, please call the church at 404-688-7501. Additional missions of St. Paul can be found at www.StPaulGrantPark.org/missions.