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Neighborhoods in Progress teams up with Custom Home Builder AC Plumber to Save Family Heritage in One Neighborhood

By Frances Gonzalez-Boyd



There is a story behind the duplex named Grace Place and the connection of two men who stand proudly in front of the almost completed property on the corner of Plum and Ash. It is a story about family heritage and pride. This story is about good roots and where they came from, and a caring blended with a love that conquers over all bad that has tried to destroy a neighborhood. It is about a couple of men who decided it was time for them to take control and bring back the good morals and parenting skills that they remember. It is about proud members of a community that will continue to take action to restore an original beauty and essence of their home while saving their families.{{more}} Having something in common usually helps when making friends with someone. Some of things that Petty Hunter, 60, and AC Plummer, 69, have in common are; they both grew up in the same neighborhood in Abilene. Both men had also moved back to their hometown roots. Hunter moved from Houston after retiring from his longtime position as Assistant Director of Parks and Recreation, and Plummer from Ontario, California where he retired after working for the school district for eighteen years as a carpenter. Another thing that they had in common was that both were sad and displeased with what they discovered when moving back home. The displeasure caused them to take steps towards positive change for the future. “It is about the history of our community and based on our roots. What we are saying for the neighborhood that produced us. We are ashamed for the conditions we allowed, which brought us to these changes; change of quality and life experiences in this neighborhood” said Hunter. He has a proud story of his own that inspires and motivates other when heard. His story is about moving forward and winning the race and claiming victory for good causes, and helping his fellow man. Both men decided to take action and restore the Carver neighborhood where they grew up, and have teamed together under the umbrella of Neighborhood for Progress , a non-profit organization that was established in 1998 in Abilene. Hunter is Volunteer Executive Director. According to the organization handbook, NIP’s mission is to combat deterioration and secure affordable sanitary housing, community and other related facilities, and conditions, economic and social environment conducive to the general welfare of and progress of declining areas in the city. The organization addresses one or two problem areas of city with particular attention to the needs of low and moderate low income persons. It participated in the strengthening of the Carver neighborhood by securing a $1.8 million dollar federal grant to build multi-family units on land donated by the city. The Carver Townhomes, an attractive, new development of two and three bedroom units has been completed at N. 8th and Mesquite and is already completely filled with tenants. NIP is also working to instill pride and increase morale in families through home ownership. Another organization that Hunter and Plummer are involved with is I CAN. The establishment was preceded by the formation of a citizens group known as Interested Citizens of Abilene North. Driven by dramatically rising crime and drug commerce in their neighborhood, residents, working with Community Foundation of Abilene, determined to “take back the streets” through clean-ups, better lighting, crime watches and increased cooperation with the Abilene Police Department. Plummer’s Custom Home Builders business and his crew is the vehicle that is building the properties. “His vision is to give back to the community. He is volunteering his work for the good cause.” Hunter said. “Two of the low-income populations that are being targeted and helped are Senior Citizens and Veterans. “You build a house, it cannot go anywhere. We expect at the end that we can purchase, and have some collateral.” Plummer said. “I feel good about it. It will be rewarded later. Once we are finished with this property, we will continue to the next neighborhood.” Just as the friendship continued to develop, so did the project. “As our relationship built, AC became the contract of choice. If there was anything to be done, I had AC, because I trusted him.” Hunter shares, “We bought property in 2003. I got a grant for $100,000 and tried to figure out how we could make it work. AC was invited to a board meeting. We lost the money because of my inability to leverage it with the community. We talked and talked, and AC said, “Let’s do something”. He explains how important it was for him to take action after coming home to see the condition and environment his Mother’s house was in. Since the organization was formed the improvements in the Carver neighborhood continues change for the positive. “Three years ago it was bad in the community. We have the drugs and crime under control. We cannot be satisfied with what we have. We have to give people the opportunity to move into neighborhood. We go into the depressed areas which have infrastructure and redevelop them.” Hunter said. When the project first started to transpire, Hunter explains that it took hard work and a police officer that was even assigned and housed in his office for six month to help eliminate the drug problem that existed three years ago in the neighborhood. Whether it became a problem due to the poverty of the community or because of the concrete slab structured foundations of the old houses, concerned citizens have taken action to make changes. “It was so bad in the community that people who had roots were ashamed of the environment. No one would buy because of the drug infestation. I-CAN gives the opportunity to move in. If you want to impact the quality of life in a neighborhood, you have to improve the quality of homes.” Hunter said.

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