ROCKFORD (WREX) –
A community team-up is making steps to help lives and lawns in the Ellis Heights Neighborhood.
Rockford’s Community Economic Department, the Zion West Neighborhood Association, the West Gateway Coalition and Rockford Corridor Improvement coordinated together on a first ever opportunity to better maintain abandoned residential lots in the Ellis Heights Neighborhood.
This partnership has led to three new jobs in the Ellis Heights Neighborhood. The workers are in charge of mowing 28 vacant lots. Jessie Jones is one of those employees and lives in the Ellis Heights Neighborhood. He is happy to have the opportunity to work.
“We have so many bad things to say about each other but today we had a positive thought,” Jessie said, “Today was a blessed day.”
Jessie and and another young man from the neighborhood, Tyrie Jones, do not travel far for their new jobs.
“I just have to walk to work basically,” Tyrie said. “I am good with transportation all I need are my feet.”
The men are employed through Zion West Enterprises, a small business the city chose to work with on the mowing project instead of typical lawn care contractors. The president of Zion West is Pastor Marvin Hightower. He says it is a blessing they get to supply work to some of their neighbors.
“It is a great opportunity for them and we are grateful to give this opportunity,” Hightower said.
The contract with Zion West Neighborhood Association will commence with the mowing of 28 lots within their immediate neighborhood. As this group establishes themselves and the program grows it will have the opportunity to expand to more than 100 lots in larger neighborhoods.
Rockford’s Community and Economic Development Director, Todd Cagnoni, says that the city will pay $25 a mow and is committed to pay $10,000 for the lots in 2016.
“The city is utilizing our funding which we would otherwise would spend on a greater mowing partnership,” Cagnoni said. “But instead we are hiring individuals from the neighborhood to put them to work.”
“We can change a lot with this program. We can put people back into those vacant homes and we can make our neighborhood beautiful again,” Jessie said.
Each new employee went through a job interview and training. If these employees ever cover more lots Rockford says it has the ability to pay up to $45,000 on this project down the road.
“The sense of pride this builds in the neighborhood is going to be great and we are just looking for this to spread and grow,” Pastor Hightower said.
“It is a beautiful thing and this is the happiest day of my life,” Jessie said.
Even though mowing is seasonal work Pastor Hightower is looking for a way to make these men full-time employees in the future.
News Source: http://www.wrex.com/story/31987529/2016/05/16/rockford-partners-with-zion-west-neighborhood-association-to-create-3-new-jobs