Friday marked the start of a project by Penn graduate students partnering with a local nonprofit to repair 12 different houses of low-income homeowners in Mantua.
Graduate students from the Wharton School , PennDesign and other graduate schools — 75 students in total — volunteered for Rebuilding Together Philadelphia by providing essential repairs to homes on the 37th and 38th streets on Fairmount Avenue and the surrounding neighborhood. The build will finish this coming Saturday, April 5.
The work consists of projects “as simple as painting or as complicated as plumbing or electrical work,” said Executive Director of Rebuilding Together Philadelphia Stefanie Seldin , a 1990 College graduate . The budget for the build is $120,000, with funds going towards roof repairs, carbon monoxide detectors, paint and any other necessary supplies.
In order for a community member to apply for their house to be refurbished by Rebuilding Together Philadelphia, he or she must have lower than 80 percent of the Housing and Urban Development requirements. This means for a one-person home the owner must make less than $44,000 a year, and $63,000 or less for a four person family, Seldin said.
The Mantua area currently has a 51.8 percent unemployment rate. The area was recently designated a Promise Zone by President Barack Obama, a designation that is supposed to generally increase funding in the area. However, Seldin said that Rebuilding Together Philadelphia started working in Mantua three years ago, before this designation.
Rebuilding Together Philadelphia, founded by 1988 Wharton graduate Robert Bellinger , started its first project in 1989. The organization rebuilds 60 to 80 homes a year. Its goal is to help maintain affordable home ownership for Philadelphia residents.
Besides providing critical home repairs and beautifying the surrounding community, the organization connects homeowners to social service resources in the area, such as health screenings and energy coordinating agencies.
“No matter where we are, its important to think about our neighbors and the community we live in,” said Christopher Burns, second-year Wharton MBA student and Wharton Rebuilding Together Philadelphia Club president. “Wherever we go, we should be thinking about helping out our neighbors.”
Burns, who is studying real estate at Wharton, got involved with Rebuilding Together Philadelphia last year and was elected president earlier this year.
“Our vision for this group is that it becomes more than just Wharton students,” he said. “We have made a ton of effort in the past five years to get other graduate schools involved.”
PennDesign has been a large partner with Wharton on this project, sending between 25 and 30 volunteers for this project.
Of the homeowners whose houses are being rebuilt and fixed to a varying degree, three are veterans.
“It’s wonderful that we can give back to that community as well as our veterans of the armed services for all that they do for us,” Seldin said.
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