By Philip Haldiman, Independent Newsmedia
When Megan Coak found a flier on the front door of her house near Cactus Road and 85th Avenue offering free improvements to her home and neighborhood, it piqued her interest.
She quickly learned the city of Peoria’s Neighborhood Pride program was coming to her area to make improvements to the residential community. Last February, a group of volunteers arrived and worked a full day, painting and landscaping part of her front yard, placing rocks for a parking area and removing a dying tree. That day the volunteers also did similar improvements to the rest of the homes on Ms. Coak’s street.
It is an amazing program that prompted her to return the favor, she said.
“When you looked at the street before, it looked fine. And after the new landscaping, I was like, ‘Wow this already looks nice.’ And then, when they added the new paint and everything else, it was 100 times more improved,” Ms. Coak said. “So, we asked how we could get involved. They never asked us personally, we just want to help with the next one.”
Ms. Coak’s street was one of many Neighborhood Pride beautification projects last fiscal year.
Planning Director Chris Jacques said the program is a cooperative work effort between the city and residents to offer assistance to individual property owners for improvement of their properties by the award of materials and volunteers who help neighborhoods maintain their appearance and value as they mature.
The program had a successful year of improving established communities, Mr. Jacques said.
“Neighborhood Pride utilizes our resources and works with volunteers and organizations to engage in community projects,” he said.
The Peoria City Council established the program 21 years ago to help stem signs of distress in generally more mature neighborhoods through resident and community partnerships.
The city’s annual program budget of $50,000 was extended by an additional $62,398 last fiscal year, based on the value of discounts, donations and volunteer labor.
Community Assistance Manager Carin E. Imig said this is a remarkable 125 percent budget match to the program.
“City staff are continually successful in leveraging discounts and donations from local businesses and utilizing volunteer labor from local organizations as a force multiplier,” she said.
Last fiscal year, 45 homes received improvements. City officials said this equated to 27 homes painted, 22 homes received gravel, 34 homes had trees or shrubs trimmed and five homes had fence repair/replacement. More than 14 tons of debris was removed, and nearly 700 volunteers provided about 5,000 work hours.
The group completed two major projects last fiscal year — one on Oct. 22, 2016, and one on Feb. 25, 2017, in the Palo Verde District.
Ms. Imig said the group is looking for new projects in the current fiscal year.
Neighborhood Pride projects are selected through a data driven process that considers variables such as the concentration of foreclosed homes in the area, the volume of code enforcement cases, age of housing stock, the number of one-story homes (for volunteer safety) and the overall appearance of the neighborhood. While taking these factors into account, this year’s process relied heavily on neighborhood nominations from residents, Ms. Imig said.
“During the summer months, projects are selected through a process that considers various available data and citizen nominations to determine suitable locations for the next year’s Neighborhood Pride events,” she said.
The Neighborhood Pride Program generally focuses its efforts on the more mature neighborhoods of Peoria. The Acacia District, which includes Old Town and other parts of southern Peoria, has seen a number of improvements provided by the program. Vicki Hunt, who represents the area, said Neighborhood Pride has become an integral part of what makes up the best of the Acacia District.
Volunteers arrive to projects with smiles on their faces ready to take on any task, from taping and painting houses to shoveling gravel, she said.
“I cannot say enough about the city employees who oversee these volunteers. They don’t just direct the work to be done, but show up with food, water, and help along the way. And the volunteers serve with a wonderful spirit, truly bringing pride to every neighborhoods they enter,” Ms. Hunt said. “City staff recruit eager volunteers and then come in with all the supplies — paint, roofing, tools and a very large dumpster. These volunteers go to work on whatever challenges the homeowner faces, and when they leave a long day later, the entire neighborhood is brighter and better off for their having been there.”
The following are stats attained by the Neighborhood Pride program in fiscal year 2016-17:
Paint: 567 gallons
Gravel: 294 tons
Fence repair/replacement: 5 homes
Debris removed: 14.21 tons
Volunteers: 687 volunteers at 4,953 hours
The neighborhood Pride program is considering future projects for the fall and spring. During August, staff makes final selections on the upcoming project areas, so it is not too late to nominate your neighborhood by e-mailing program staff at firstname.lastname@example.org. For volunteer information, visit peoriaaz.gov/neighborhoodpride.
The following are factors considered for a Neighborhood Pride project:
• Foreclosed homes
• Code enforcement cases
• Age of houses
• Two-story homes
• Visual survey
• City projects
Philip Haldiman can be reached at 623-876-3696 or email@example.com. Continue the discussion at www.yourwestvalley.com.