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A restoration of hope

April 9, 2024

For 34 years, Iowa Heartland Habitat for Humanity has been helping families achieve homeownership and partnering with communities in Black Hawk, Butler, Bremer, and Buchanan counties. “Our core focus is building stability for families through affordable homeownership,” said Ali Parrish, executive director.

While this focus remains, a new approach to providing hope for entire neighborhoods has emerged as a prominent priority for the organization’s work in Waterloo. The nonprofit’s adoption of an asset-based community development approach is creating transformational change. “It really starts with residents first and learning what their gifts are in their neighborhood, what concerns they may have, what their dreams are for their neighborhood, and then building out coalitions and connections,” said Ali. Habitat began its engagement in true neighborhood revitalization when it became a partner in efforts in the Walnut Neighborhood in Waterloo, where residents and churches had already come together to do asset-based community development through Christian Community Development, another local nonprofit. Habitat has taken that knowledge and is now applying it to Waterloo’s Church Row Neighborhood. In each neighborhood, the people who live there are the catalyst for change. “We can’t invest in all these areas if we don’t have residents at the table saying, ‘This is my neighborhood. This is what I care about,’” said Jenna Petersen, neighborhood impact coordinator.The Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa has come alongside Habitat as an early funder and collaborator in this initiative. “The Community Foundation has been engaged in this process since we began, not only through grants but by helping develop community connections,” said Ali.

A restoration of hope in neighborhoods creates ripple effects in the entire community.