“Curb appeal” might have had a negative rating at the Miriam House earlier this summer — until a group of volunteers spiffed up the premises.
The structure at 900 W. 6th St., Davenport, had an unsightly yard with scraggly trees and bushes that obscured its windows. It presented a discouraging look to the neighborhood before a team of St. Ambrose University students tackled several yard and garden and home improvement projects.
“It takes some work just to get this old paint off,” said Eric Varcho of Bettendorf, one the students in an SAU master’s degree class who worked at the site. The team scraped and sanded a handicapped-accessible entrance ramp and front porch, pulled weeds, trimmed bushes and created newly landscaped areas in the yard.
“I’m really pleased with this,” said a tired Nancy Busch, who focused on the landscape work. “It was terrible when we first arrived.”
Trees and bushes were more than 6 feet high at the windows, and the St. Ambrose classmates used saws to cut them down before trucking the refuse to the Davenport compost facility.
Hardy perennials such as hosta and sedum were planted on the side of the house facing the street.
Instructor Randy Richards said efforts such as the one at the Miriam House have taken place for about three years as part of a course called “Experiential Team.”
“I really am humbled by the energy, spirit and generosity our students have taken on these tasks,” he said.
Many management courses in America use one large task to promote teamwork, he said. Students may be asked to build a cardboard boat, an oversized paper airplane and the like.
But community-oriented tasks done by this class have benefited the Humility of Mary Housing program, Camp Shalom in rural Maquoketa, Iowa, and several area schools.
Jane Hoffman was pleased with the efforts and happy to have volunteer help at one of the properties owned by John Lewis Community Services Inc. Hoffman, the interim executive director of the John Lewis agency, said the Miriam House site is currently home to the Safer Foundation’s tutoring program for young adults. The venerable building was once used as a temporary shelter for homeless people.
John Kiley, social action director for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Davenport, said the project was very much in line with the diocese’s outreach efforts. He dug up and donated the hostas from his own garden, and $50 was provided to pay for mulch and other items.
“We felt like it was a good thing to do,” he said. “It’s very important for that neighborhood to stay structurally sound, and improved curb appeal is helpful.”
Deirdre Cox Baker can be contacted at (563) 383-2492 or firstname.lastname@example.org.