(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)
Volunteers descended on East Boston’s Trinity Neighborhood House over the weekend to give the historic home a new sparkle. They cleaned the common spaces within the building and weeded the lawn, trimmed the hedges, and made other landscape improvements outside.
Karley Ausiello, vice president of volunteer engagement for the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, said the event kicked off the organization’s new Community Builders program. The initiative brings together real estate professionals from Greater Boston to do both hands-on work improving properties and skills-based work assisting community development corporations in creating more affordable housing.
Built around 1847 for local entrepreneur Noah Sturtevant, the Greek Revival home at 406 Meridian St. became Trinity Neighborhood House and Day Nursery in 1917. It was designated a city landmark by the Boston Landmarks Commission in June 1981 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.
For many years, it operated as a social service organization and later as a community center after its purchase by the East Boston Social Centers in 1966. Today, it has been converted by Neighborhood of Affordable Housing into a residence with 16 units to serve the disabled and formerly homeless.
Ben Sayles, a director at Holliday Fenoglio Fowler, and Wyndsor DePetro of Marcus Partners helped recruit and organize the real estate professionals for the program. They connected with the United Way, DePetro said, and brainstormed ways they could use their professional expertise and connections to serve the community.
“What we did was we put a big list together of all of our friends, contacts … within the industry, and then sent out an email blast and said, ‘Guys, we’re going to be doing this. Anybody want to do it, come on down, and if you can’t make today, we’ve got some more skill-based opportunities coming up,’” Sayles said.
“The community service day is really the way to get people together and interact with each other,” DePetro said. Their efforts were successful enough that they attracted about 20 real estate professionals who volunteered to give up a sunny Saturday to help out at the Trinity Neighborhood House, plus a few more friends who saw that email and offered to pitch in.
Sayles said the “real meat of this project” is the skill-based assistance that lawyers, accountants, and real estate brokers can provide free of charge to community development corporations and other nonprofit groups that need help with such complex, specialized, and often expensive services. He said there’s a lot of need for those skills among organizations that are trying to buy foreclosed homes and convert them into affordable housing.
“It’s like an iceberg,” Sayles said. “This is the 10 percent that hopefully everybody will see, and then the other 90 percent is going to be the skill-based [work].”
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(Brian Adams photo/Courtesy United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley)