City Paper is not for tourists
For the few who may have missed it (I mean who wasn’t watching the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day?), HGTV announced the results of its contest “Save the World: Start at Home,” naming our very own Anacostia as one of four winners out of 10 finalists for a series of spruce-up projects. (The contest actually has five winners, but New Orleans was a lock. Whatever.) Several weeks of online voting were required to nudge the other four into the money. D.C. went up against Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Denver, Long Island, Portland, San Fran, and the Twin Cities. Ballmer also won. Go Ballmer!
The deal is that the network Home Depot built will now hand over grants to local branches of Rebuilding Together, a national org of mostly volunteers that helps low-income folks fix up their houses. In D.C., the Anacostia project includes three elements, one at Anacostia park, the second at Bethel Christian Fellowship Child Development Center, and a third at individual homes on S Street SE.
Harold and Mary Brown, owners of one of those homes, are featured on the HGTV Web site. A camera crew arrived several weeks ago to film Mr. Brown, who has been taking sponge baths for years and living on the first floor because he can’t climb the stairs to the bathroom and the rest of his house. Mary Brown, when I called her a few days after the announcement, was delighted to hear people were actually coming over to her house to do some work. Since this has been such a slick and interactive campaign involving a bunch of money and, presumably future TV shows and Home Depot ads, I didn’t expect to be the one to tell Mrs. Brown that she and Mr. Brown were getting a fancy new chairlift. But, hey, they’re coming and they’re doing a nice thing for the Browns and for Anacostia.
If Janice T. Stango, executive director of Rebuilding Together of Washington, D.C., didn’t call the Browns right away, she should be forgiven. Stango was busy in the leadup to the announcement getting everyone she knew and plenty of people she didn’t to hop on HGTV.com and pick D.C. She put fliers on bulletin boards, handed them out in dog parks, and roped in students who needed to fulfill community service requirements. Around 11 p.m. two nights before Thanksgiving, she was in a Shoppers Food Warehouse in Fairfax and noticed a couple of ladies buying what looked like the staples for a food bank holiday. “I ran out to the car and got some fliers and they distributed them for me.”
“This did not just happen,” she said about winning the prize. And it hasn’t happened yet. Rebuilding Together is now looking for volunteers to do the work, especially during the last weekend in April (the 26th and 27th). Let’s face it: Saving the world and being on HGTV is a helluva lot better than watching it.