SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Norman Blackwell Sr. has a few special loves in his life: family, baseball and his community.
He loves his community so much that twice a week he and volunteers distribute food to those in need from his driveway.
“That line goes all the way to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard,” Blackwell said.
“Oh, the line? We have over 100 people today,” said a volunteer helping hand out food.
The 89-year-old has lived at his home for 50 years in the historically minority-settled Oak Park neighborhood in the south of Sacramento — where he’s also raised 13 kids. Blackwell confesses for all he’s good at, he’s not much of a cook. The fact his dishwasher, microwave, oven and stove don’t work doesn’t help.
“[The stove is] not working properly, not at all,” Blackwell said. “I have to get a match to light it.”
Thankfully, Blackwell has been chosen as one of the first to receive funds for repairs on his home from a $10 million program that goes toward helping residents stay in the neighborhood.
The $10 million is part of an agreement city leaders made with the developers of a billion-dollar project nearby, to help alleviate concerns from some residents that feel they will be displaced by rising housing costs due to the project.
Blackwell said he hasn’t raised any of those concerns, but as someone on a fixed income he said there isn’t money for his home repairs, so he’s thankful to be a recipient.
“I just can’t dream how much this is going to help me out, really,” Blackwell said.
The Aggie Square development will add research labs, a tech hub and medical facilities to the UC Davis Medical Center, which sits several blocks from Blackwell’s house.
Habitat for Humanity is one organization in charge of utilizing some of the $10 million for repairs on Oak Park homes. Brian Bushta, a manager with the organization, said rising housing costs are an issue in Oak Park and throughout Sacramento.
“I think you’re going to continue to have a problem with raising home prices and raising rent prices,” Bushta said.
Another part of the agreement, 20% of the jobs at the development will go to those in the community.
Bushta said these types of investments by developers are something that should always be factored in.
“I think it is part of the responsibility for a developer to help the community around them and I think with these Aggie Square funds they’ve proven that,” he said.
At Blackwell’s home, it’s not just his kitchen that will get some attention.
His bathroom will also receive a touch up — the improvement he’s most excited for.
“I’m not too much of a cook, so I’ll be using my bathroom. Yeah, priority one,” Blackwell said.
An upgrade he can’t wait for so he can continue to live in the home he loves, and the community he cares so much about.