“Viewpoints” invites guest authors from outside of Wells Fargo to share an important perspective related to their work. Today, we welcome Caroline Blakely, president and CEO of Rebuilding Together.
When Rebuilding Together was founded in 1973, the original goal was to bring communities together by having neighbors help neighbors rebuild their homes.
Today, we have broadened our scope to include making life-changing impacts on neighborhoods and their small businesses across the U.S. In fact, our local affiliates and nearly 100,000 volunteers complete about 10,000 rebuild projects nationwide each year.
Throughout the years, as we worked to realize our organization’s vision of creating a safe and healthy home for every person, we noticed that whenever volunteers worked to rehabilitate a house, nearby residents would also start working on their own homes.
We decided to tap into this ripple effect and expand our service delivery model beyond the rehabilitation of individual homes to the revitalization of entire communities — including the small businesses in these communities.
As we deploy and refine this new service delivery model, we remain cautious about preventing gentrification in the neighborhoods in which we work. For that reason, our community revitalization work is resident-led.
Our affiliates choose the neighborhoods to work in, and then meet with long-term residents and local leaders to ensure Rebuilding Together’s efforts will benefit the residents and small business owners who live and work in the area.
Local businesses are the foundation of healthy communities
For many Americans, a typical weekend consists of running into friends at the local farmers market, having dinner at a great little restaurant not far from home, or getting helpful advice from the neighborhood hardware store for that long-procrastinated home repair project.
At the heart of many of these experiences is a local small business.
Small businesses are an integral part of every town and community. They are gathering places where neighbors meet neighbors and people get to know one another and spend time together. In other words, they are an important part of every community’s culture.
Small businesses also play a crucial role in the economy of every community. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses employ 56.8 million people across the country (PDF) — creating 65 percent of net new jobs since 1995.
By employing, sourcing, and redistributing wealth locally, small businesses are the backbones of communities throughout our country.
Understanding each community’s unique needs
Our affiliate network works closely with local governments and other nonprofit organizations to meet the needs of local residents and business owners and help them build stronger, more resilient communities.
We connect homeowners with financial literacy programs, establish food pantries and community gardens, teach trade skills and help residents gain employment, and rebuild many community centers and institutions, including libraries, parks, schools, and homeless shelters.
One program helping Rebuilding Together achieve its goal is the Wells Fargo Works for Small Business®Neighborhood Renovation Program Contest. Last year, small business owners in Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, and Minneapolis were invited to enter the contest to win up to $25,000 in business renovations.
In each of these five cities, four different small businesses were awarded business renovations through a monetary budget and access to a Rebuilding Together team that helped identify and address business challenges and opportunities.
I’m so proud of our work with Wells Fargo to provide much-needed renovations to businesses that serve their communities, allowing recipients to focus on their bottom line rather than leaky windows, outdated plumbing, or other maintenance problems they have faced over the years.
As a result of the program, Wells Fargo and Rebuilding Together are working in partnership with communities to strengthen small businesses, helping to ensure that long-term community residents are not being priced out of the areas they have called home for generations.
Together, we are giving back to the economies of the communities where we live, work, and play, and strengthening the places that we know and love.