Virgilio Cruz stood knee deep in a 20-yard dumpster, pushing down debris, sorting out materials, and taking more trash from a steady stream of workers pulling it from the house. The morning haze had just cut, and a sticky humid June morning was starting to give way to a light breeze and blue skies. Virgilio, with the help of quite a few friends, was beginning to uncover the blighted home that will soon be rehabbed into a home he and his family can own.
The Cruz family is the beneficiary of the work being done by Flourish44703, a non-profit birthed out of Radial Church. Flourish serves blighted neighborhoods in the 44703 zip code of Canton. The non-profit works to create residential, commercial and public spaces that help residents of the area flourish spiritually and practically. The basic principle is that access to space, specifically to ownership, is fundamental to human flourishing, and fundamental to neighborhood flourishing.
Flourish has recently purchased its second house in the neighborhood. The home sat vacant for some time, with boarded up windows and doors. Inside, boxes and piles reached the ceilings in most places. The home, built in 1912, will certainly need some work. Roof, windows, and floors. A deep cleaning and some tender, loving care. But, when the project is completed, it will provide a safe, comfortable, and affordable path to homeownership for the Cruz family.
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The first stages of the work included clearing the rubble from the home, and some light demo to prep the home for repairs. Teams from Brethren churches around the area joined local residents in the work, over two intense work weekends. Volunteers from Trinity Brethren Church, Radial Church, North Georgetown First Brethren Church and Beacon of Hope Community Church all joined in. A youth work team traveled from Park Street Brethren Church to join.
Virgilio says "As a Latino, a lot of us, we build castles in the wind. It always feels like, even doing everything right, even with my papers, it could all be taken away like that [snaps fingers]. I want to be here, live normal, care about the neighborhood, do life together."