Rebuilding Homes and Restoring Hoperuss edwards
“I’ve never been part of anything like this.”
Jay Harris has been in the construction industry for 45 years. He’s currently a superintendent for Gregory Construction, a construction company based in Columbus, Mississippi, with an office in Huntsville. In his current assignment, Jay is overseeing the complete renovation of two houses on Levert Street in Northeast Huntsville.
The project is part of a charitable giving partnership between Gregory and Lincoln Village Ministry. The structures being renovated were originally built in the 1930s, each as a 2-room duplex to house families working in the mill. These “shotgun houses”, as well as the entire neighborhood, have deteriorated considerably over the years. Like so many historic urban neighborhoods across the country, Levert Street has become known for crime, violence, drugs, and poverty. Today, these structures are well on their way to becoming beautiful and comfortable 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom homes for families participating in the Lincoln Village program.
Jay works out of Gregory’s Columbus office and leaves home at 3:30 am on Monday mornings to lead this project, returning home on Thursday evenings. “It’s a tough schedule,” Jay explains. “But, I don’t mind it at all. This is important work. What’s happening in this neighborhood is incredible.”
Lincoln Village offers a comprehensive program to the almost 50 families living in homes just like these. These families not only enjoy beautiful homes with modern appliances and central heating and air, but also receive counseling, spiritual guidance, professional and vocational assistance, and exceptional educational opportunities.
“These houses and this work are visible expressions of who our Father is,” explains Mark Stearns, the Founder of Lincoln Village. “This is about redemption and transformation that only Jesus can bring. It starts with providing a safe, comfortable home. From there, we have a comprehensive, holistic approach that helps these families break out of destructive patterns.”
The transformation is evident by touring some of the more established Lincoln Village neighborhoods – well-kept homes with “welcome” signs, neighbors talking, and children playing in front yards. “You can see the difference immediately,” says Lakshmi Nallamala, Lincoln Village’s Executive Director. “There is hope here now. This is a real community with families that care about each other and are working to make better lives for themselves and even future generations.” Since beginning in 2012, Lincoln Village has purchased and renovated 25 homes in the Lincoln Community and currently owns another 33 in line for renovation.”
It was a “chance” meeting at an Executive Leadership Peer Group where Lakshmi met Aaron Gregory, the President of Gregory Construction. “As soon as I heard about the work Lincoln Village was doing, I knew I wanted our company to be involved,” Aaron recalls. “We do work all over the Southeast and are committed to giving back to each community we work in. Gregory Construction’s core values align perfectly with Lincoln Village’s mission, so this is a great fit.”
Lincoln Village has led the way in reversing many of the destructive trends and cycles in poor neighborhoods. What started as a small effort from one man, has now grown to involve almost 2,000 volunteers each year, ongoing help from local churches and businesses, and powerful partnerships with companies like Gregory Construction. Levert Street is still a work in progress, but the end goal is clear and visible in the surrounding area. Lincoln Village Ministry is focused on making a lasting difference one family at a time.
Jay Harris sums it up best. “This is not anything like our regular work. This is different. This is something I’ll never forget.