Properties owned by elderly, disabled targeted for help
A few short minutes had passed since Scott Scherer and others began volunteering for the "Take a Bite Out of Blight" program, but the difference was already visible.
Scherer and other volunteers with Our Daily Bread Ministries wheeled barrows full of firewood to the back of the first house chosen by Supervisor Roger Gitlin and County Code Enforcement Officer Dave Mason for cleanup as part of the new program.
Slowly the wood pile began to shrink.
"We're removing everything from the front yard," Scherer said. "(The homeowner) will still possess what he has, but it makes the front of the house and the yard more palatable to individuals that come by."
Gitlin and Mason stood outside the home on the 500 block of McNamara Avenue on Thursday watching Scherer and other workers grab pieces of wood and toss them into wheelbarrows. They were joined by Our Daily Bread representatives Mike Justice and Daphne Cortese, Rural Human Services representative Tim Hoone and Walmart store manager Nick Gonnella.
Two huge trash bins stood on the street, courtesy of Recology Del Norte, waiting to be filled up.
Gitlin, who started the program as a way of beautifying Del Norte County, said he and Mason looked at a number of properties in District 1 that have received warnings for code violations. This program seeks to clean properties owned by elderly, disabled or by low-income residents who may not have the resources or physical ability to do the work themselves, Gitlin said.
"Not one government dollar is going into cleaning up this property," Gitlin said, describing himself as a facilitator. "Let neighbors help each other. It doesn't put our best face forward to see blight."
Mason estimated that there are about 200 cases of blighted property in Del Norte County. Most of the cases involve substance abuse issues, but some of them simply involve residents who have limited resources and find themselves overwhelmed, he said.
"There's those that won't, and those that would if they could," Mason said, referring to the owners of blighted properties. "It's a challenge. Everybody knows somebody who needs help."
Walmart donated $1,500 to Our Daily Bread Ministries and Jordan Recovery Groups to help kick-start the program, according to Gitlin. Rural Human Services is helping to administer the funds, said RHS Workforce Center Director Tim Hoone.
To help with the program, donations can be sent to Our Daily Bread Ministries at 1135 Harold Street in Crescent City. Justice asked that donors ear-mark their contribution "blight."
Reach Jessica Cejnar at firstname.lastname@example.org.