The past three years have been tough for Dale Osborne.
He lost a piece of his esophagus to cancer. Surgeries on his right shoulder and left elbow have left the retired computer programmer unable to keep up with his collapsing backyard fence.
This week, a team of high school students and community volunteers are helping Osborne and his fellow residents in the River
“It kind of reminds me of how good things can be,” Dale Osborne said Tuesday. “A lot of the time you dwell on what you don't have.”
More than 100 homes — 1 in 5 in the neighborhood — have been remodeled in the past six years, said Jeanna Daniel, the Riverpark neighborhood association president. Each summer, volunteers from Catholic HEART Workcamp partner with local companies and community groups to help the neighborhood. This year, 13 homes are on the repair list.
The work teaches students how to respect people regardless of income, said Sharon Breytspraak, one of the adult leaders of the Catholic campers. Breytspraak, who lives in Mahomet, Ill., is leading a team of students from Illinois and Tennessee.
“This could be Illinois,” Breytspraak said. “It could be any town.”
The work is hard but rewarding, said Hope Emoff, a 15-year-old Catholic volunteer from Brentwood, Tenn.
“It's great to know we're making their lives better,” Emoff said.
The projects range from painting rooms to building wheelchair ramps.
Houses built in 1940s
Shane Hicks and his co-workers from Hodges Trucking Co. ripped out a wall and floor that had rotted from a broken air conditioner. They replaced it all, reframed the wall and installed a new window. The hot, physical work is easy, Hicks said, because they know what it means to the homeowner. They want the neighborhood to know that the community cares about its success.
“There are people in the world that still care,” Hicks said.
Riverpark was developed in the 1940s and runs from SW 24 to SW 29, between Portland and Tulsa avenues. The average home there sells for about $37,000.
It is a neighborhood in transition.
Neat square houses with painted shutters and tidy gardens line the streets under arching shade trees. Children ride bikes through the neighborhood. Birds chirp.
But some homes have trash or broken down cars in the yards. Paint peels. A woman smokes through a screen door without glass.
There's still work to be done, but so much has already been accomplished. The graffiti is gone. Crime has dropped. The park is now a place for children and soccer teams — not drug dealers.
Improving homes one by one for families who couldn't afford it builds a network of support, Daniel said.
“We're still a low-
Riverpark recognized nationally
Riverpark in Oklahoma City was named one of the top neighborhoods in the country this year.
The Riverpark Neighborhood Association was named the runner-up for the 2011 Neighborhood of the Year Award in the Physical Revitalization Beautification category from Neighborhoods, USA, a national nonprofit group.
Riverpark volunteers were honored for the dramatic turnaround of their neighborhood, which runs from SW 24 to SW 29, between Portland and Tulsa avenues.
Riverpark is the first Oklahoma neighborhood that has been named a finalist for the award, said Georgie Rasco, executive director of Neighborhood Alliance of Central Oklahoma.