ST. LOUIS – Zaviera Taylor was walking with her grandson on the sidewalk along Salisbury Street on Tuesday afternoon. They were all smiles.
“I love the area,” Taylor said.
She lives in housing developed by the not-for-profit Better Living Communities. Single-family homes give renters a path to ownership and sense of community.
“You get to know everybody,” Taylor said.
The effort began years ago with Bethlehem Lutheran Church serving as a cornerstone in the Hyde Park community. Better Living Communities board member Jack Gerber recalls seeing some residents living in deplorable housing conditions, and he wanted to help.
“How can any good Christian not want to do something to help them?” Gerber said.
He said a loan from the Lutheran Church Extension Fund helped get the project rolling. Lots were purchased and homes built in phases. What began as a dream, turned into 96 living units.
“Who but God could have done all that?” Gerber said. “No bank would have ever lent us the money.”
He estimated a half-million or more of private dollars went to the project, along with countless volunteer hours.
“It came out beautiful,” Gerber said.
Rev. Gerard Bolling is the lead pastor for Bethlehem Lutheran Church. He said anyone wishing to support the effort can send donations to Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 2153 Salisbury Street.
“The church was a vehicle for a lot of this to occur in the community and, I think, more communities should actually do that,” Bolling said.
He also gives credit to the former lead pastor of Bethlehem Church. Pastor John Schmidtke passed away last year.
“I think bringing single family homes to Hyde Park is wonderful,” said Christopher Bunting, a member of Bethlehem Lutheran and the maintenance supervisors for the properties. “You are a product of your community. If you invest yourself in the community, I think you will be all right.”