By Suzy Kridner
NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- It was an early Christmas for several residents on Mary Avenue, who received home improvements from a new Housing Initiative Program.
James Stone, 516 Mary Ave., was outside working, measuring, cutting wood and installing lumber for a new front porch to his home. He was helped by volunteers from the city of New Smyrna Beach and Habitat for Humanity.
Some of the volunteers were scraping off old paint and applying new paint.
Mr. Stone was right there with the other workers who included City Manager Pam Brangaccio, Community Redevelopment Agency Director Tony Otte, Assistant City Manager Khalid Resheidat, Human Resources Director Carol Hargy and Acting Police Chief Mike Brouillette.
City Commissioner Judy Reiker was among the 50 or more volunteers who worked at Mary Avenue.
She told the City Commission last week that City Attorney Frank Gummey was working without his usual bowtie.
Others, such as CRA Director Tony Otte, were hanging precariously on the roof scraping paint.
"There was a lot of participation and a lot of team effort," said Mr. Otte.
Others participating included New Smyrna Beach Police Lt. Donna LaValle and Elizabeth Griffith, wife of Police Sgt. Eugene Griffith.
The Southeast Volusia Habitat for Humanity partnered with the city of New Smyrna Beach through the CRA program to assist families with the Brush with Kindness Program.
Families who need home repair assistance work on improving their homes with the help of community volunteers.
The four families on Mary Avenue are the first in a pilot program to receive this assistance. About $15,000 in grant funds have been provided to apply to the cost of materials, such as paint and landscape materials.
The volunteers also installed rain barrels to recycle rain water for irrigation.
The volunteers worked Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays on the project throughout December.
Organizing the program was Joyce Pearce of Southeast Volusia Habitat and CRA Director Tony Otte.
Habitat's Brush with Kindness program is combined with two CRA programs -- the Small-Scale Improvement Grant program and the Residential Improvement Grant program. As a result, homeowners will not be required to provide matching funds for eligible program expenditures. Up to $5,000 in grant funds are available per property.
Specific eligibility requirements apply.
"By combining the free labor from volunteers with established grant programs offered through the City's Community Redevelopment Agency, we're able to make a difference to improve these properties at no cost to the homeowner," said Tony Otte, agency director. "This partnership helps both agencies to fulfill their missions -- to build a better community."