Lots of people celebrate moving into a new home with a house-warming party, but few are like the one I attended in Henderson on Tuesday. For starters, the mayor was there, along with news crews for several television stations and newspapers. What made the party in Henderson so special? It’s a story of community, volunteerism, and stimulus money. Yes, there is concrete evidence that stimulus money is actually helping people and neighborhoods. The freshly painted house I visited on Tuesday is a prime example.
Not long ago, the house just off Burkolder Boulevard was run-down and vacant, another sad victim of the recession and the foreclosure crisis. It might well have stayed that way if HopeLink, a nonprofit based in Henderson, hadn’t received a federal grant to purchase such properties and rehabilitate them to provide housing for low-income senior citizens. The house I visited is one of three that HopeLink purchased, and the first to be ready for occupancy. Completely renovated inside and out, the house is a comfortable three-bedroom with a spacious backyard. Not only is it home to its three residents as long as they wish to live there, it’s also a beacon of optimism in its neighborhood.
In a short ceremony, Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen welcomed Tasha, Brenda, and Ann (names changed to protect privacy) to their new home with a key to the city, wishing them “a new lease on life” as he made the presentation.
Afterward, I learned that two of the women moved in on December 30th, 2010, and the third joined them a week ago. All three are pleased with the pleasant comfort of their new residence and grateful to HopeLink for providing it. “The first time I stepped in here,” Ann said, “I felt it. It was home.” The three get along well together, too, and all expressed their thanks to HopeLink staff member Molly Puno for matching them up as housemates. “She’s our angel,” Tasha said.
Another “angel” is HopeLink’s administrative coordinator Robbie Critchett. She described how she worked to choose inviting colors and furnishings for the house. The result is a warm ambience enhanced by plenty of natural wood. “People have asked me for the color swatches,” Robbie said. No surprise there — the house is lovely.
As I spoke with others in attendance at Tuesday’s celebration, I soon learned that HopeLink is staffed and supported by a host of angels. Executive Director Danielle Dreitzer oversees the programs that promote education and literacy and provide assistance with rent, utilities, food, clothing, and prescription medications to 1,500 families every year. She credits the success of HopeLink’s many programs and events to dedicated staff members and volunteers.
Kathleen Matson, one such volunteer in attendance at the house warming party, told me about HopeLink’s cadre of trained tax preparers who provide income tax preparation services at no cost to those in need. HopeLink board member Charlotte Bentley, a Realtor based in Henderson, was responsible for identifying suitable houses for purchase and renovation. Other volunteers help with events like “Breakfast and Bookworms,” a program that provides breakfast and books to schoolchildren in the southern Las Vegas valley. More programs provide needy children with backpacks and clothing at the beginning of the school year and holiday gifts in December.
In addition to the message of hope, concern, and care that I received so clearly at Tuesday’s event, I also received the message that HopeLink is always on the lookout for more volunteers. Everyone I spoke with told me that all are welcome and all skills are appreciated. Training is required and provided for volunteer tax preparers, but many other jobs require nothing more than a willingness to devote some time and energy. If you’re interested in sharing your talents and time where they’ll make a real difference, contact HopeLink through the links and phone number below.
Before I departed on Tuesday, the new residents of the house in Henderson told me that they’re going to hang the big brass key to the city on the living room wall of their new home. It’s going to look very nice hanging over the pine wainscoting and the cozy brocade sofa. As lovely as the big key is, however, it can never equal the importance of three smaller, more ordinary keys. Even a key to a city can’t compete with the key to your own front door.
178 Westminster Way
Henderson, NV 89015
Telephone: (702) 566-0576