Volunteers showed up early on Saturday morning at a little house on Devonshire Drive in Belleville.
Mark Nicholson was putting up window trim. Dwight Leid was painting. Chuck Thurig was keeping things organized.
“This project fits right in with Belleville Helping Belleville,” Thurig said.
More than 200 volunteers participated in Belleville Helping Belleville, tackling 11 projects around the city, including the Devonshire house being renovated by Neighbors For Renewal.
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The other projects Saturday for the annual Belleville Helping Belleville event included landscaping at St. John Bosco Children’s Center, updating the playground at Henry Raab School, painting the exterior of the Catholic Urban Programs building, painting the new chalets for the Christkindlmarkt, constructing a room for a special-needs child, yard clean-up at a home on Mascoutah Avenue, cleaning up and landscaping at East End Park and spreading rubber mulch at the Hough Park playground.
Belleville Helping Belleville is coordinated by Belleville Achieves Strength in Character, which is known as the BASIC Initiative.
Neighbors For Renewal, a non-profit, purchased the house on Devonshire for $20,000. Volunteers with the group rehabilitate the houses and make them available at a significantly reduced price to working families who fall within certain program guidelines. The program rehabs one house per year, Thurig said. This is their 15th home.
On Saturday morning, Karen Thurig was on her knees in a back bedroom, scraping a floor.
“I clean up the mess that’s left behind,” Thurig said as she scraped a putty knife across the tiles, loosening up drywall mud from the floor. “But we’ll get it.”
Chuck Thurig will use additional volunteers from the Belleville Helping Belleville day to clean up the backyard, paint a garden shed and pull weeds in the home’s front flower bed.
“Belleville is such a Norman Rockwell American kind of town. It’s so neat and cute,” he said. “But the best part of Belleville is the people and the sense of belonging from wanting to work together and help each other out.”
Around the corner in Abraham Lincon Elementary School cafeteria, volunteers munched on doughnuts, grabbed a coffee or water, got their job assignments and headed out to work on Saturday morning. Mayor Mark Eckert chatted with some of them.
“It’s in the nature of people from Belleville to volunteer, and that spirit continues to grow,” Eckert said. “The people who reach out to help each other give us all the hope in the world.”
Sponsors for Belleville Helping Belleville included First United Presbyterian Church, YMCA, Jimmy Johns, Eckert’s, Shop ‘n Save, K&G, Holland Construction Services, Ehret Heating and Cooling, Belleville Supply, Ace Home Brite, Sandy’s Back Porch, Home Nursery, Americorps, City of Belleville, the BASIC Initiative, Community Kindness, Modern Woodmen of the America.