This home on Evans Street has been refurbished with funding from the Department of Community Development and Services. (Michelle Higginbotham / Special to the American Press)
Last week marked the one-year anniversary of Thilman and Annie Richard moving into what essentially was their new house. Located on Evans Street, the home had been completely refurbished, something they recall being a wonderful moment in their lives. (Michelle Higginbotham / American Press)
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 1:17 PM
Last week marked the one-year anniversary of Thilman and Annie Richard moving into what essentially was their new house.
Located on Evans Street, the home has been completely refurbished, something they called a wonderful moment in their lives.
Thilman Richard, 94, said the couple first walked through the front door in 1947. Over the years, wear and tear caused the floor to buckle and the Richards found themselves in need of assistance to fix their home.
They ended up at City Hall and in the office of Ester Vincent, director of the Community Development and Services Department.
After completing paperwork and learning they qualified for help, the Richards were awarded more than $40,000. The money was used to install new flooring, walls, a kitchen and other amenities.
During the construction, the Richards lived in a temporary location.
“We were more than happy when we moved back. We are truly blessed with a whole lot of joy,” 81-year-old Annie Richard said. “It was an old house that was nice inside, but the floor was sinking.”
Vincent said the department she oversees funnels federal money into the community to help families like the Richards.
During the 2010-2011 fiscal year, the city obtained $1.8 million in grant funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Corporation for National and Community Services.
“Our office provides services to the citizens of Lake Charles. That is the essence of what we do,” Vincent said. “Through HUD we can provide money to refurbish homes or down payment or closing costs.”
Vincent said most residents do not know that the city has access to money that can help. Then there are those who are not enthusiastic about the paperwork or guidelines that need to be adhered to in order to qualify for funds.
Vincent said the effort is worth it and points toward the Richards as a success story.
City Hall is recognizing the work that goes on at the Department of Community Development and Services during National Community Development Week, which is April 9-14.
City officials intend to educate the public about the community work that takes place in City Hall.
Vincent’s office oversees Community Service Grants awarded to the city to fund infrastructure (Enterprise Boulevard sidewalk and Riverside Park); housing projects; emergency shelters; AmeriCorps and the summer food program.
She said money is also provided to Leader in Me, LaFamilia Resource Center, Catholic Charities, Beat the Heat, Rebuild Together, Family and Youth Counseling and Team Five.
Even though large amounts of paperwork and red tape are involved, Vincent said what is perceived as annoyances are actually safeguards to ensure money is accounted for.
“The paperwork is part of it. HUD monitors us and will look to see if we have a paper trail that goes with the money that is distributed into the city,” she said.
Federal officials determine the needs of the city through a report that is compiled every five years. At the end of the period, the city provides another report that gives an overview of where money went, along with annual reviews of the way grant money was parceled out.
The Richards were not bothered by the mounds of applications they had to fill out.
While sitting in their living room, decked out with painted walls and comfortable furniture, the Richards –– who have been married since 1946 — are delighted assistance was available.
“This house has a solid foundation,” Annie Richard said. “It all has brought us joy.”