Building up Washington Park, one house at a time

2018 Giving Guide

The walls to Lavitta Moore’s brand new home in Milwaukee’s Washington Park neighborhood had only just gone up, but she already had plans in mind for after the house was finished.

“My first plan is to get a new kitchen table,” Moore said on the construction site of her house on the 2100 block of North 31st Street. “I haven’t had a chance to buy a new kitchen table, but I’m going to get one and then make a big meal for my family.”

Komatsu employees worked to build two homes for first-time homeowners in Washington Park throughout a week in September. Credit: Jake Brandt

Throughout a week in September, Moore, joined by dozens of volunteers from Komatsu Mining Corp., worked to build her very first non-rental home. For Komatsu, the recent building blitz was a continuation of an ongoing partnership to build nearly 20 houses with Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity in the Washington Park neighborhood.

Komatsu, formerly Joy Global Inc., has raised more than $1.3 million for Habitat since 2011, a result of employee giving, company match and proceeds from its golf outing. And the company has donated more than 7,300 volunteer hours to Habitat in that same time.

“One of our objectives is we want to be involved in the community where we are,” said John Koetz, president of surface mining.  “We have 139 locations around the world, and in each community, we try to make sure we do something to build it up and improve the lives of not just employees, but the overall community.”

Washington Park is particularly meaningful to the company because many employees grew up in that neighborhood and live in or near it, he said.

Earlier this year, Habitat announced plans to expand its neighborhood revitalization efforts from Washington Park to the Midtown neighborhood, with a $9 million commitment over the next three years. As the organization begins to focus its efforts on the area that encompasses West North Avenue to West Lisbon Avenue and from North 30th to North 25th streets, Komatsu has signed on to continue supporting that work.

The opportunity to give back to the community is popular among employees, Koetz said. Each year, when Komatsu notifies employees of the opportunity to participate in the weeklong Habitat Blitz Build in September, they are eager to sign up.

“We actually have to do a drawing for who gets to come out and help,” he said.

Employees return throughout the year to help with drywall and painting projects.

Koetz said the neighborhood has undergone a transformation from six years ago, when the company first began helping with the building projects. There once were safety concerns about working in the neighborhood. Now, children run around the area and dilapidated houses have been transformed into quality homes with landscaping. 

“That’s a really exciting part for us – to see what we did here and see it turned into a home, with furniture and flowers,” Koetz said. “It’s not just a building, it’s a family’s home.”

Moore, a single mother of three who had to move after rental rates were increased at her last apartment, said she’s grateful that volunteers are willing to help make her affordable and safe home a reality.

“There are a lot of people out there who care and who are willing and want to help,” she said. “I’ve been a CNA for 12 years. I got into that field to help others, not expecting for others to return the favor. So seeing everyone out here helping, I feel blessed.”

The walls to Lavitta Moore’s brand new home in Milwaukee’s Washington Park neighborhood had only just gone up, but she already had plans in mind for after the house was finished.

“My first plan is to get a new kitchen table,” Moore said on the construction site of her house on the 2100 block of North 31st Street. “I haven’t had a chance to buy a new kitchen table, but I’m going to get one and then make a big meal for my family.”

Komatsu employees worked to build two homes for first-time homeowners in Washington Park throughout a week in September. Credit: Jake Brandt

Throughout a week in September, Moore, joined by dozens of volunteers from Komatsu Mining Corp., worked to build her very first non-rental home. For Komatsu, the recent building blitz was a continuation of an ongoing partnership to build nearly 20 houses with Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity in the Washington Park neighborhood.

Komatsu, formerly Joy Global Inc., has raised more than $1.3 million for Habitat since 2011, a result of employee giving, company match and proceeds from its golf outing. And the company has donated more than 7,300 volunteer hours to Habitat in that same time.

“One of our objectives is we want to be involved in the community where we are,” said John Koetz, president of surface mining.  “We have 139 locations around the world, and in each community, we try to make sure we do something to build it up and improve the lives of not just employees, but the overall community.”

Washington Park is particularly meaningful to the company because many employees grew up in that neighborhood and live in or near it, he said.

Earlier this year, Habitat announced plans to expand its neighborhood revitalization efforts from Washington Park to the Midtown neighborhood, with a $9 million commitment over the next three years. As the organization begins to focus its efforts on the area that encompasses West North Avenue to West Lisbon Avenue and from North 30th to North 25th streets, Komatsu has signed on to continue supporting that work.

The opportunity to give back to the community is popular among employees, Koetz said. Each year, when Komatsu notifies employees of the opportunity to participate in the weeklong Habitat Blitz Build in September, they are eager to sign up.

“We actually have to do a drawing for who gets to come out and help,” he said.

Employees return throughout the year to help with drywall and painting projects.

Koetz said the neighborhood has undergone a transformation from six years ago, when the company first began helping with the building projects. There once were safety concerns about working in the neighborhood. Now, children run around the area and dilapidated houses have been transformed into quality homes with landscaping. 

“That’s a really exciting part for us – to see what we did here and see it turned into a home, with furniture and flowers,” Koetz said. “It’s not just a building, it’s a family’s home.”

Moore, a single mother of three who had to move after rental rates were increased at her last apartment, said she’s grateful that volunteers are willing to help make her affordable and safe home a reality.

“There are a lot of people out there who care and who are willing and want to help,” she said. “I’ve been a CNA for 12 years. I got into that field to help others, not expecting for others to return the favor. So seeing everyone out here helping, I feel blessed.”

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