Chelsie Mason is a single parent of three who will soon be moving into her first new home, which she is helping to build with Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity in the Washington Park neighborhood.
“I didn’t have the resources to provide a home for my family but this program fit my situation,” Mason told about 85 people attending the recent annual gathering of Washington Park Partners. WPP is a group of residents, businesses, organizations and others whose goal is to help families thrive, keep residents safe and help businesses prosper.
Mason addressed the group about her experience with the Habitat homeowners program, which has been working with qualified families to build affordable homes in the neighborhood.
Mason got help from Habitat to improve her credit score. In addition to providing “sweat equity” on the house, she also volunteered at the Farmers Market and the Habitat for Humanity Restore. Her fiancé, Germain Price, has volunteered to help five families on the block build their houses.
Referring to helping build her own home, Mason said, “I loved it. I’ve done everything from hammering nails, cutting drywall to putting in windows.”
Mason and her family are looking forward to moving into their house in February. “The neighbors welcomed me. I wouldn’t have picked anywhere else to live. This is a place I can call home,” she said.
Others who spoke at the event, which was held at Our Next Generation, 3421 W. Lisbon Ave., included representatives from Our Next Generation, Progressive Community Health Center, Community First, Habitat for Humanity, the Washington Park Committee and Westside Academy.
Jennifer Koss, a teacher at Westside Academy, 1940 N. 36th St., and former students Akyia Reed and Terrell Harris, both 15, talked about their work last semester with Serve 2 Unite, a program that promotes youth involvement in community improvement projects. The teens worked on community gardens that were once vacant lots, participated in block parties and helped clean up the neighborhood.
“Every time we go past the places we worked on, we feel a sense of pride,” said Akyia, now a freshman at Destiny High School, 7210 N. 76th St.
“I feel happy because [the program] brought the community together by coming above the violence,” added Terrell, a student at North Division High School, 1101 W. Center St.
Matt Melendes, sustainable communities director at Washington Park Partners, said he was pleased with the gathering. “So many residents are involved; that was the most powerful part about the meeting. What’s exciting is the residents are energized [about] making a strong, successful community.”