My Extreme Weeks

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My Extreme Week

“It’s amazing how much can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit.” – John Wooden

As you can see in the details of the press release I posted yesterday, I had the opportunity to work with an awesome team serving with the Extreme Home Makeover Side Project. What an opportunity it was to serve over 50 houses (47 in the neighborhood) and a community park and alleyway. I can honestly say it was 10 days to remember. Everyone had their own unique experiences, so it makes sense that I am confident no one completely shared the experience I had and I no one else’s.

A few impacts for me were:

· TEAM – I was blessed to lead with an overly talented team of other leaders. At multiple times throughout the week I thought, “Man, what would we do if _________ didn’t step up to the plate? How could we do it without them?”. God pulled the right leaders, people and businesses together in with a few days notice and He orchestrated it all to work magnificently together. THAT IS A TEAM. And there are about 10 people I owe a huge thank you to – and they all know who they are!

· DEDICATION – On a regularly basis I was overwhelmed with the many, many, many volunteers who put their lives on hold to serve their community. Many hours were put in by so many. And with the power of TV, so many changes or decisions were made with minutes notice. The moment that caused my emotions to overflow: The night we got ourselves into hand mixing 100 bags of cement for the concrete slab of a tribute garden for Clara Ward. Most of the volunteers there came after a long day at their regular job. When most other volunteers finished their jobs, these fine 20 people were still there with cars parked around the garden with headlights on so the job could be finished. No dinner, barely any light – but teamwork, dedication and patience in sued. Literally, they were placing stepping stones with words that described the characteristics of Clara and the last stone they placed was patience. A good laugh shared by all!

· COMMUNITY – We have an amazing community in Erie! Those serving and those we served (some of who were both). I had the great honor of getting to know every family we served. All are great people with many different stories, some with a willingness to help. People were so grateful for being served and voiced it many times. All I could think as people were thanking us was to thank them. It was a true joy to serve them with others. Some of these people are in tough situations and don’t see and end it sight. That sometimes de-motivates people. I was reminded:

o People tend to become what people think of them. When they think the community doesn’t care they lose motivation. When they feel cared for by those they respect, most times – they strive for more.

o People don’t care an ounce what you have to say to them until they realize that you sincerely care.

o In tough situations, people tend to forget that the power to succeed lies deep within. How a community acts towards them can positively or negatively affect that.

Thank you to the many volunteers and businesses that without hesitation made the Extreme Make Over side project a success!


Extreme Side Project Press Release

Who is Grace? Clara Ward’s neighbors know. For them, Grace – as in Grace Church of McKean, is a landscaper, painter, porch repairer and now, a friend. Not only is the “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” build taking place in Erie, so too is a 47-home-improvement project headed by Grace Church that extends along East 21st Street from Ash to Wayne streets. When Maleno Development, the firm charged with overseeing the extreme build, got overwhelmed with volunteer groups wanting to help, John Maleno turned to Grace Church, whose community-renewal program, ServErie, offered to organize and manage the hundreds of community members who wanted to lend a hand. “We were getting flooded with individuals and groups who wanted to help with the build, but we also wanted to help the entire neighborhood,” explained John Maleno, founder and president of Maleno Development. “Grace stepped up and stepped in to help us with the neighborhood-improvement efforts.”

Among the 500 volunteers are parishioners from Grace and other Erie-area churches, including employees from First National Bank, the Erie County Bar Association, GE Transportation, the City of Erie, the Erie Community Foundation, Edinboro University and Penn State Erie, the Behrend College, to name a few. Working four-, eight- and 12-hour shifts through Wednesday, they are helping those residents of the two blocks of East 21st Street by painting and repairing
front porches, removing trash, pulling weeds and removing overgrown landscaping, fixing sidewalks and cleaning out flowerbeds. The next step is planting shrubs, flowering trees and flowers and laying mulch. In short, this small army is giving the neighborhood a facelift.
Aaron Lundberg, Grace Church’s director of campus operations, explained that many people wanted to help Clara Ward, the woman chosen to receive the new home, as well as those who live nearby. And by helping her neighbors, they are helping Clara. “We want her neighbors to know that the community cares about the whole neighborhood,”
Lundberg said. On Thursday, July 25, after the Ward family was revealed, volunteers went door to door, asking residents if they needed help with any household projects. “The best part is that they wanted to help us. Their reaction was so positive. They are so obviously happy for Clara, but they are also so proud for Erie.” He added that along with the volunteers, many Erie-area landscapers and nurseries quickly signed onto the project. “There was no hesitation on any company’s part,” Lundberg said. “We asked and they said, ‘Whatever it takes.’”

John Maleno isn’t surprised. “The Erie community has great character and heart,” he said. “The outpouring of compassion and concern surrounding this project is immense; it reveals the authentic Erie, Pennsylvania – the one we all know.” Also helping the neighborhood is General Exterminating. Not only is the company donating its
time and services to the “Extreme Makeover” project, its employees have gone knocking on doors on their own time, offering the company’s services to neighbors along East 21st Street. “We asked neighbors if they would like seasonal exterior preventive treatments that control spiders, ants and centipedes, for example,” said Donna Reese, owner of General Exterminating. “No one refused our services. It was fantastic.” Her team completed 22 homes on Sunday, leaving notes for those not at home. They will treat the remaining homes once they receive word from the residents.
“Since it was difficult to access the homes behind the spectator barricades, we will return once the dust settles and the barricades are removed,” she said. “We want to make sure everyone in the neighborhood is covered.” So, on Thursday, July 2, when Ty Pennington shouts, “Move that Bus!” it won’t be just Clara Ward’s home on display. One look up and down her street will show the hard work and heart of more than 500 who pitched in for her neighborhood.
“Our mission, along with that of the many volunteers, is to act as the hand and feet of Christ, loving and caring for others,” Aaron Lundberg said. “This ‘Extreme Makeover’ project gave our community the chance to do just that.”

Additional notes:

The volunteers have also taken on McKinley Park, beautifying it with a
flower garden that will surround a stone tribute in Clara Ward’s honor.

The 47 households along East 21st Street will receive handmade mosaic stones with their street
address to place in their front yards, also provided by volunteers.

Erie City Councilman Jim Thompson is sponsoring a resolution to name a portion of East 21st
Street “Clara’s Way.” A vote will be taken at Wednesday’s council meeting and a sign will be
installed later this week.