by Kathy Benzel

ExtremeMakeoverThe last week in my neighborhood has been one of the best ever! What began as a TV project to build a new house is turning into the transformation of a whole neighborhood.

On Saturday, November 7th, the Extreme Makeover Home Edition bus pulled in front of 228 Massachusetts, just two blocks from my home on Buffalo’s West side. Although I wasn’t there for Ty Pennington to yell “Good Morning Powell Family,” I was there shortly afterwards and stuck around for the better of the first day, watching as 1,000 of the more than 4,500 volunteers arrived to start the demolition and renovation.

Delores Powell is a Jamaican immigrant and community activist whose home was barely livable despite the work and repairs she had poured into it over the past five and a half years. She lives with four of her seven children, and is instrumental in helping ensure our neighborhood gets better. This very deserving woman was about to see incredible things happen for her family and the neighborhood.

I was amazed on day four, because the house was already up with work being done on the inside, and many other homes had exterior renovations well underway. Volunteers and spectators filled the neighborhood, and the enthusiasm was everywhere.

I can’t even convey how thrilling it was to see the culmination of all the efforts on Saturday, November 14th. When that bus came back and blocked the home from the Powell Family’s view as they returned from their vacation in Disney World, the crowd was roaring “MOVE THAT BUS” and the community’s pride was palpable. To see this spirit of cooperation, and the great results of this immense project, brought tears of joy to my eyes, and to many others who were fortunate enough to be there.

From the very start, I could tell that this was going to be a catalyst for change in my neighborhood. I’m a lifelong resident of Buffalo and proud of it. Signs of tough times have fallen on many urban areas of the country, and we are no exception. This project has been so beneficial – not just for the Powell Family – but for many, many more on Buffalo’s West side. Click here to view a short slideshow of the process.

Special thanks to all the volunteers and organizations involved in this project. Some among them were David Homes, WNY AmeriCorps, PUSH, Buffalo Re-Tree, Buffalo ReUse, D’Youville College Upward Bound, and others we may never be aware of. Corporate sponsorships were also amazing.

I echo Mayor Brown’s comments I heard on TV this morning: “Let’s keep this going in the entire City of Buffalo!”

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After a weekend spent touring Buffalo’s GardenWalk and the streets of the beautiful Elmwood Village neighborhood, Stacey Hirvela, Senior Associate Garden Editor for Martha Stewart Living Magazine, told readers of the Martha Stewart Living Radio Blog that she was “completely in love with Buffalo.” Captivated by the more than 300 gardens on the walk, enchanted by the beautiful turn-of-the-century homes – including Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House — and dazzled by the restaurants she and her husband, Adam, visited, Stacey blogged about “one of the most wonderful experiences I’ve been involved with during my time with the magazine.” To read Stacey’s complete post, click here.

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