ST. LOUIS – For more than 15 years, North Grand Neighborhood Services has been giving new life to once-dying homes in north St. Louis. The small volunteer organization is making a big impact right behind a historic church.

Saturday morning, NGNS Board President Joe Feld and other volunteers were working on home directly behind Sts. Teresa and Bridget Catholic Church on North Grand.  

“We’re just trying to take these negative properties in the neighborhood and turn them into positive homes, affordable homes for families, which is a critical need in our city,” Feld said.  

Next to three tiny homes the organization had already completed, Feld and other volunteers continued a project they started last winter.     

“It was built in 1881. It’s been abandoned since at least 2005, so it’s been a neighborhood eyesore and nuisance for all these years,” Feld said. 

He said his organization has partnered with other nonprofit organizations, along with St. Louis City, to improve more than 20 properties in four-mile radius since 2005.  

NGNS is also giving high school students in St. Louis County a chance to learn and connect with the city. 

“The majority of them are from DeSmet Jesuit High School, where a lot of volunteers are retired teachers,” Feld said. “Since summer just started, a lot of them are just enjoying their first couple of weeks of freedom and aren’t down here with us today, but typically we have about ten students down.”  

Dick Donohue is one of many retired teachers volunteering. He said the opportunity is a great way for students to get a different perspective. 

“They come here they meet the people, they become comfortable. I think a lot of stereotypes get challenged,” Donohue said. “Then they also understand there’s a need for quality housing, especially in North City, so they go away with that kind of understanding which in the future has to help.”

Plus, Donouhe said he gets to do something he enjoys, helping people.  

“I can’t think of a better use of my time, you know?  At the end of the day, you look up and say, ‘Hey, we accomplished this.’ So it does give you a really good feeling,” he said.  

Donohue said the home NGNS hopes to have completed by the end of summer 2022 has meaning to the city.  

“This is St. Louis history right here.  A family is going to be able to enjoy this building, so you know, what great satisfaction that brings you,” he said.