For those who believe no one volunteers anymore, Walnut Street was the place to be Friday to be proven wrong.
Dozens of people from several community organizations gathered in the morning to start home improvements at 34 Walnut St., the home of Joe and Donna Raffa. Organizations like Love, INC., Jamestown Renaissance Corp., Personal & Home Development LLC, Zion Covenant Housing Ministry, Chautauqua County Landbank, Habitat For Humanity, Business Church and the city of Jamestown collaborated to renovate the house, which had several housing code violations.
“I don’t have words to describe it. I’m so in awe,” Donna Raffa said about the work being done to improve her home. “I’m amazed. I just can’t say enough good things. There aren’t words to describe this.”
The collaboration started when Susan Justham, Love INC. executive director, received a call from the Raffas asking for assistance with home improvements. Justham said Love INC. can handle small home improvement projects, but nothing to the scale the Raffas needed to have done. She then wrote about the Raffas’ situation in a “Prayer Newsletter” that is emailed to several people and organizations. At that point, Jim Cama of Zion Covenant Church Housing Ministry group and Nathan Bailey of Personal & Home Development LLC. became involved in the renovation project. Shortly after the email, Mary Maxwell from the Jamestown Renaissance Corp. also got involved.
“It has snowballed into what we have here (Friday),” Justham said.
Justham said the Raffas told her that she was the 10th person they had called looking for assistance. She said the Raffas were happy to finally have someone who heard their pleas for help.
“They told me, ‘Thanks for listening,’” Justham said.
Cama said when he was contacted he just wanted to figure out the role he and the church could play to assist the Raffas.
“It’s amazing to see all the different groups come together like this,” he said.
Bailey said after he received Justham’s email, he contacted Crystal Surdyk, city development director, to ask for the code violations to be extended as the groups organized to assist the Raffa. City officials provided the necessary time so the collaboration could happen.
Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist said the Raffas’ situation is a case that demonstrates how code enforcement can serve as a tool to not only protect homeowner’s quality of life, health and property, but to resolve housing code violations with the property owners and tenants in a collaborative manner.
He said for others who need similar help they should call the city’s Development Department at 483-7541 or [email protected] or contact the Jamestown Renaissance Corp. at 708-6761.
The mayor said it’s rare to see so many community organizations gather for one cause like the home improvements done Friday.
“We’ve learned during the pandemic that we need to be creative,” he said. “It helps a community rebuild.”
Donna Raffa said this is just the start of the improvements that need to be made. Once the renovations done Friday are completed, they will reassess the situation to possibly receive additional funding from a federal HOME grant provided to city officials who appropriates money to CODE Inc.
“It’s definitely a good first step,” she said.
Watching all the organizations work in collaboration was impressive, Donna Raffa said.
“They have thought of everything,” she said. “They are all working hand-in-hand.”
Donna Raffa said her husband’s family first moved into the home and Joe Raffa has lived in the house since 1942.
“This is home,” Donna Raffa said.