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Extreme Community Makeover

Last Saturday we decided to spend the day serving with an organization we had heard about called Extreme Community Makeover (ECM). All we knew was that ECM focused on a few, specific neighborhoods in Denver to assist families and individuals with home improvement projects on the perimeter of their homes. Think of it like Curb Appeal, except instead of focusing on one home, ECM’s goal is to improve the look of an entire neighborhood, house by house. We had a great time working with people and helping out with some trash pick-up and fence painting fun!

In 2008, there was an idea…to create a community outreach strategy of building relationships with individuals in various neighborhoods by joining them in efforts to improve their entire neighborhood, as well as interacting more with the neighbors on their street. A few people came together to structure the concept and started developing the idea of the Extreme Community Makeover. Several months later, groups of people started showing up to adopt one block at a time and get to the work of providing hands-on assistance with projects such as painting, landscaping, graffiti removal, yard work, etc.

The hands-on work is preceded by a survey two weeks before the projects are scheduled to start. A lead person/people from each volunteer group goes door to door in the neighborhood where they will be working to personally explain what ECM does and to find out what the individual or family would like help working on to improve the facade of their home. Notice I said “what they would like HELP working on” and not “what they would like done.” This is one of the things that sets ECM apart from many other service oriented ministries. Their heart is relationships. Their hope and desire is for the homeowners to have a personal investment in the improvements on their home, while taking advantage of the opportunity to receive a lot of help on the projects. They want to see those inside of the house come out and interact with those serving, in order to get to know each other and build relationships. ECM also encourages neighbors to interact with one another as they are all outside on this one particular project day. They want to see communities revived and the first step is this kind of interaction.

Community relations are such a big deal, but it is easy to overlook their importance. Often times we live in our little house and never take the steps to meet our neighbors and take a real interest in our communities.  But ECM hopes to break those habits and to encourage these interactions that may not otherwise take place. Volunteers are encouraged to invite those they are serving to join them during the lunch break so that all may meet and have time to talk and get to know each other better over a casual meal.

Another goal of ECM is to utilize this time together to offer resources to the people they serve. Many of the individuals and families don’t realize the resources that are all around them, so communication in this area is vital.

By the end of 2008, Extreme Community Makeover had over 1,800 people volunteer with them without any marketing or advertisements, but strictly word of mouth. They realized they had tapped into a big area of need and someone had to take ownership and keep this good thing growing. It just made sense that this person would be Angela Bomgaars, because she had already been investing so much time and energy into the ministry. And keep it growing she did. In fact, their second year they added two new communities and by the end of ’09 they had facilitated over 2,700 volunteers. As of October of 2010, ECM has mobilized around 7,500 volunteers in 6 neighborhoods in Denver to partner together with 750 families in these communities.

Currently, Angela is in the progress of working to achieve 501 (c) 3 status for ECM so that they can function independently. Since she is the sole employee of ECM, she stays very busy trying to facilitate the many groups and individual volunteers, coordinate with the neighborhoods, and educate each volunteer on the purpose of ECM, which is less about people spending a day serving so that they can feel good about themselves and have a pat on the back, and more about empowering the homeowners to be able to take care of the needs in their homes and neighborhoods. The model anchors on a hand-up instead of a hand-out mentality.

Because ECM’s role is to function as a facilitator for volunteers as they serve in communities, they do not provide tools and supplies. Those are provided by the volunteer groups, and whenever possible, by the homeowners as well. This makes ECM a rather easy model to replicate in your own community. So if Curb Appeal is one of your favorite shows and you have a heart for building relationships in and around your community, consider structuring a similar outreach ministry in your area!

Visit their website at http://www.extremecommunitymakeover.org/ to find out how you can help ECM through donations and to find out more about their work.

2 Comments (Leave a Reply)

  1. Kourtney Lichtie (November 3, 2010)

    Hey thats a really cool idea! Very creative! 🙂

  2. Michelle Schoen (November 4, 2010)

    We volunteer and work with ECM on a regular basis. It’s an incredible model, and it gives the homeowners such a different outlook on not only their properties, but on their neighborhood, too.

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