Thirteen months ago the abandoned house on North Acadian Thruway was just one eyesore among many. But a labor of love is slowly transforming the house into something worthwhile.
The Eden Park Village Project is also slowly transforming some of the rest of the low-income neighborhood. And it’s not even finished yet.
The house, soon to be called the Eden Park Village Resource Center, is on the verge of a complete renovation, but a major hurdle has to first be overcome, said the Rev. Mary Moss, executive director of the 25-member Louisiana Area Women in Ministry, the group overseeing the project.
“We will provide resources so that we can enable and empower neighborhood residents to live productive lives,” Moss said. “Our most present and immediate need is heating and air conditioning, and I’m discovering it is a pretty penny.”
The center will provide spiritual and moral guidance, parenting workshops and after-school tutoring, said Moss, who is also pastor of St. Alma Baptist Church and director of the Southeast Regional Biblical Institute.
“We want to teach young ladies, who are doing hair on their porch for little or nothing, some business principles so they can maybe get a shop and earn a living and save money and take care of their children,” she said.
Since the home at 765 N. Acadian was donated last year, volunteers felled two nearby trees, cleared a jungle of overgrown shrubbery, mowed the grass and planted flowers and lemon and satsuma trees out front. Carpenters closed in the screen porch with siding and installed windows and a new steel door.
Volunteers tore out all the interior walls and ceilings and installed new plumbing and wiring, all with donated materials and labor.
New Sheetrock, hardwood flooring, insulation and energy-efficient windows are all donated and ready for installation as soon as the HVAC system is in place.
The project started with about $5,000 and is expected to be around $75,000 when completed, Moss said.
“In a hopeless community where it seems everyone has given up hope, here we see hope again,” Moss said, pointing to nearby homes that were once overgrown and have now been neatly trimmed and painted since this work began. “Jesus is very clear, the believers are the light of the world. We are to make a difference in the community.”
Moss defines the Eden Park community as a geographical area bordered by Florida Boulevard on the south to Choctaw Drive on the north, from Acadian Thruway on the west to Foster Drive on the east.
There are about 40 churches in the neighborhood, Moss said, and seven are involved in this project — Second Baptist, Donaldson Baptist, Belfair Baptist, Elm Grove Baptist, St. Mary Baptist, Hughes Memorial United Methodist Church and St. Paul Catholic Church.
“We cross denominations because we’re looking at this as the body of Christ with a singleness of purpose,” Moss said.
There are also school district and city-parish officials involved even though their agencies are not providing funding.
Gail Grover, a project board member, also serves as an administrative assistant in the Mayor’s Office focusing on neighborhood improvement projects and has a unique perspective of it.
“It tells us that our community is engaged and our community is interested in seeing our families and children excel,” Grover said. “We want more and more of our faith-based and nonprofits engaged in this sort of work in our community. It will only make our community better.”
“The Village Project is important to the Eden Park area because adopting this ‘village’ mindset causes residents within the community to embrace each other as family and Jesus Christ as leader,” said the Rev. Jon Bennett, pastor of Belfair Baptist Church and a board member for the project. “It is within this type of context that true community transformation takes place. Jesus Christ transforms the minds of people, and transformed people work together to transform the village.”
Moss admitted she wanted the center to be finished by now and still hopes to have it completed by the end of this year. But, if not, she is content to wait on God to provide.
“As (the late Rev.) Charles T. Smith used to say, in Proverbs 3:5-6, ‘Trust in the Lord and lean not on your own understanding.’ Because my understanding would not have us on Acadian Thruway,” Moss said with a laugh. “And ‘He shall direct your path.’ This is why I’m not so anxious, and this is the place we’re supposed to be.”
Moss also refers to the biblical account in the book of Deuteronomy of how God chose the Hebrews, a small tribe, from among all the other nations so he would get the glory of their success.
“People will look back on this and say, ‘How did they do it?’ and only God will get the glory,” Moss said. “God is sending in people so he will get the glory in this community.”
A community picnic is tentatively planned for October, Moss said. For more information visit the Louisiana Women in Ministry’s at lawimbr.org or (225) 772-0307.