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Bessie Walker's family members did their best to patch things as her New Town house wore down. But they didn't have professional expertise. Here, the kitchen sink is too high, and the plumbing underneath leaks. Walker's home is one of 25 in her neighb...
Jax Daily Record Tuesday, May. 6, 201412:00 PM EST

HabiJax, Builders Care helping out New Town neighborhood

by: Carole Hawkins

When Bessie Walker’s husband died nine years ago, everything slowed down, including house repairs.

Today, inside her 90-year-old New Town home, windows are broken, pipes are leaking and floors are caving in.

“I really don’t have the money to get it done,” she said. “When my children come, they patch things, but they don’t have any professional experience.”

By mid-June, that will change.

HabiJax and NEFBA will return to New Town to build 25 new houses for this year’s Home Builders Blitz.

The groups also will renovate 25 old homes. To do so, they’ll draw Builders Care, NEFBA’s charitable arm, into the partnership.

To Walker, who sometimes uses a cane, the Builders Blitz will mean she can cook again without having to worry about stubbing her toe on the kitchen floor and falling.

“I feel ecstatic about it. Oh lord, you just don’t know,” she said. “I don’t know if I could patch this house again if I had to.”

Dennis Ginder, NEFBA Builders Blitz organizer, said it helped that past builds constructed new houses in New Town, but they were going up right next to older homes that needed repairs.

“This will make the benefit to the community that much bigger,” Ginder said. “It’s also a hand up for folks that can’t do this for themselves.”

New Town has been a target for HabiJax homebuilding efforts over the past three to four years, said Roger Cortie, the group’s vice president of construction and real estate.

But, even with new houses going up, property values were dragged down by the worn structures standing next to them. For lasting neighborhood revitalization, HabiJax wanted repairs for older homes, as well.

HabiJax’s business model has always been new home construction, organized in the style of a community barn raising, Cortie said. The group realized it wasn’t so good at the renovation part of rebuilding neighborhoods.

“Our partnership with Builders Care will bring in a whole new set of expertise that we don’t have,” Cortie said.

He said past partnerships with NEFBA have made a huge difference at neighborhood builds.

“I’ve been blown away,” he said. “Dennis does a tremendous job. He got people signed up in minutes.”

The Home Builders Blitz will run June 9-14. For information on how to volunteer or to make a donation, visit

[email protected]

(904) 356-2466

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