'People Helping People Together' Makes Progress In Columbia
by Heather Graf
COLUMBIA, Tenn. - What started as a grassroots effort to clean up a crumbling neighborhood is now getting big results in Maury County - that include cutting the crime rate in half.
Now, the group behind that statistic is celebrating, and expanding its mission.
"It is the most awesome feeling in the world. When you change a person's living conditions, you change their world," said Jan Wright, who is the president of 'People Helping People Together'.
The homegrown non-profit began in 2009, when organizers realized their were a lot of people in their community who were physically or financially unable to take care of their homes.
"We started out at hone house at a time," said Wright. "Now we're up to 35 finished houses."
East Columbia resident Annie Hardison's home was among the first to benefit from the project. The 73-year-old says it changed her life.
"Two years ago, my roof was leaking, and I needed some help and I didn't know where to go," she said. "They put a new roof on my house, they gave me central heat and air, they went over and beyond what I expected."
Hardison was so impressed with 'People Helping People Together', that she wanted to get involved herself. She now serves on the board of directors, and helps identify homes and families in her neighborhood in need of help.
"Since we've been working in the east side of Columbia, the crime rate has dropped 51%," said Wright. "We have given people hope again."
The work is made possible through a combination of state-funded grants and private donations.
On Friday, Wright and Hardison met with the Tennessee Housing Development Agency in Nashville, to thank them for the $200-thousand dollars in grants already doled out. They also asked for the state's continued financial support.
"It's just how that love continues to grow in the community," said Hardison.