Sunday, June 12, 2016

Revitalization Chief Has Presidential Imprimatur

Wayne Rucker is the new coordinator of Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery County's Neighborhood Revitalization Program for Pottstown and Norristown.

The man who will soon be running Habitat for Humanity's Neighborhood Revitalization efforts in Pottstown and Norristown has gone from troubled teen, to prison inmate, to being nationally recognized as a volunteer at The White House, to being hired to help Pottstown neighborhoods become vibrant again.

Wayne Rucker is 28 and was one of 62 leaders nationally honored with the President's Volunteer Service Award during a recent visit to the White House.

The award was presented as part of a White House briefing on My Brother's Keeper, which President Obama launched in 2015 to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color.

He earned that award by volunteering more than 500 hours in Camden and Philadelphia.

Rucker comes to Pottstown through the AmeriCorps program. As part of the Pennsylvania affiliate’s Weatherization and Home Repair Program, he helps low-income homeowners with projects ranging from replacing roofs to insulating windows and painting porches.

AmeriCorps, in partnership with EducationWorks and the Philadelphia Youth Network, had just launched a new initiative in Philadelphia called PowerCorpsPHL, combining environmental stewardship with intensive job placement support for young adults in need of direction.

Wayne Rucker
Rucker was in the first PowerCorps class, which planted trees, revitalized green spaces and served on watershed preservation. He says he connected with nature in a way he never had before.

“It helps me get a greater perspective on life,” he said.

And now he comes here as the Neighborhood Revitalization coordinator for Habitat of Montgomery County, where he'll be collaborating with residents, government officials, community nonprofits and faith organizations to help improve families' safety and quality of life.

Rucker overcame many obstacles in his own life to get here. He was raised mostly by his grandmother, with some time spent in foster care and juvenile institutions. As a teenager, he ran away and began living on the streets.

“I always was a problem child,” he said. “I was suspended from school about 180 times.”

Between the ages of 18 and 21, Rucker was arrested several times on drug charges and other offenses. At 22, he was sentenced to five years in prison on weapons charges.

When he got out of prison in 2013, he vowed not to fall back into his old ways.

“I knew I wanted to be something better,” he says.
Photo by Evan Brandt
Marianne Lynch, director of Habitat for Humanity of
Montgomery County at a Rock the Block project on
Walnut Street in Pottstown this spring.

“When I came home from prison, I did a lot of reconstruction on myself, to get rid of the old me,” he said. “It takes a whole lot of energy and drive and determination to reconstruct yourself as a new person. But that’s what I did.” 

When Rucker finished his PowerCorps class, he went straight into the AmeriCorps program with Habitat for Humanity.

“He cares deeply about the community and he puts his whole heart into everything,” said Marianne Lynch Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery County. “We know that he’ll bring the same level of commitment to Norristown and Pottstown.”

Rucker was hired recently to run Habitat Montco’s neighborhood revitalization programs in these two communities, to ensure that families receive support to improve their safety and quality of life.

Neighborhood Revitalization responds to community aspirations by taking a holistic look at needs, and empowering residents and community partners to help neighborhoods grow and thrive. 

Mercury Photo by John Strickler
Volunteers paint a porch on Walnut Street during
this spring's Rock the Block event.
If you're unfamiliar with this Habitat program, I have three words for you "Rock the Block."

It was under the umbrella of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program that the one-day clean-up and fix-up effort in a four-block are of Pottstown took place this spring.

The new position was created after Habitat Montco received a $100,000 capacity building grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It is one of only 33 Habitat affiliates from around the U.S. awarded this very competitive grant.

In addition to receiving the HUD capacity-building grant, Habitat Montco will add to its capacity in construction, family services and development through AmeriCorps workers. The non-profit was selected for four AmeriCorps positions which will support new construction and critical home repairs, the Almost Home financial literacy and life skills program and the creation of an initiative to expand relationships with faith-related organizations.  


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