Peggy Sanders: Confluence Chronicles 10-15-12 | TheFencePost.com

Peggy Sanders: Confluence Chronicles 10-15-12

The Petty Building in Hot Springs, S.D., was built in 1891 out of locally-quarried sandstone. This is one of the buildings recently purchased for updating and a local contractor has been hired to do the work.

A unique experience last week allowed me to "see" my hometown through the eyes of an out-of-state-family. What I "saw" was encouraging because the whole family — two young sons, 9 and 12, the mother and father — were refreshingly positive. They didn't just give lip service to the praise either as they have purchased two sandstone buildings in the past two years with the intention to renovate them for new uses. They are astounded by how well Hot Springs, S.D., has taken care of its locally-quarried sandstone buildings and how dynamic the architecture is.

When we live someplace we tend to pay more attention to the deficiencies than the good things in our area. This may be because the negatives stand out and cause discussions that generally flow to pessimistic talk. We can help turn the tide of conversation and perhaps even lead the way in improving our communities, before the city has to step in and demand work be accomplished.

What is primarily required is one or a few leaders who care enough to gather neighbors for work days. This could even include some of those high-energy town teens who so frequently complain of having nothing to do. With a little advance planning and permission from the homeowner a tangled yard can be brought back to a kept-up state or windows could be washed to let the sun shine into the home again.

These projects take a little work and a little time but not money. What an uplifting experience both for the workers and the homeowner. Often the dilapidated homes belong to older folks who haven't the physical health to do their own work or cannot afford to hire things done.

Larger projects would need accomplished handy-folks or donations with which to purchase paint and other supplies. On a recent walk-about I noticed a house that faces a small city park. The front shows that the inhabitants care, as they have tried to create an attractive yard with plants and simple statuary yard decorations. It was their adjacent garage that caught my eye. The sliding garage door had come off its track making it unusable. It made me wish I could fix it or replace it myself, but know it will need to be a community effort.

As you look for challenges in your neighborhood — things you could help improve — what you and other volunteers might be able to help with sprucing up, you would be surprised how a little elbow grease can go a long way, especially working with others. If you think these run-down places don't affect you, think again. For comparison have you ever repainted a room in your home and suddenly concluded that the adjoining room looked like it also needed a fresh coat of paint too, because it looks dingy in comparison? That is an important lesson of neighborhood improvement. As properties look better, property values and home sales go up and enhancement can be "contagious."

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Peggy Sanders writes from the family farm 25-miles from Hot Springs. Her internet latchstring is out at Peggy@PeggySanders.com. ❖