Being a small town, Walton has access to limited resources, but one that will always be a constant is the city's residents — and it was a grassroots movement by those residents that helped spark a project last year bringing more resources into the community for local improvements.
Revitalize Walton began last spring with a goal of improving the quality of life for citizens through the use of donated funds, resources and labor to renovate the homes of those without the ability to do so for themselves. It was an idea that came to Walton resident Michele Ediger while campaigning for the retention of Walton Rural Life Center.
While going out and encouraging votes in favor of a bond that would keep the school in Walton, Ediger started to notice a number of houses in need of some work — a new coat of paint, at the very least. However, the demographics of the town (with numerous elderly, handicapped or low-income citizens) presented a hurdle, but it was a hurdle Ediger felt the community could help get over collectively.
"It's really hard for small towns because you don't have a lot of people, you don't have a lot of resources," Ediger said. "A lot of our people are getting older; they don't have a physical ability to do things, so basically I was looking for a way to help some of the people, like the mission statement says, to just help those people who didn't have the means to help themselves."
Once Revitalize Walton was organized, the project received a local giving grant from the Et Cetera Shop in Newton and Ediger, who serves as the vice president of the board, said several gifts of material were contributed as well (i.e. shingles, discounted paint, etc.). In total, Revitalize Walton helped renovate four homes in 2017 with projects ranging from repainting to installing new storm windows to rebuilding a couple of porches — including installing a wheelchair ramp on one.
Though there is a beautification aspect to Revitalize Walton, Ediger noted the gist of the project is to help preserve homes in the community. Entering the second year, she is hoping the scope of the work can be broadened.
"As I have time and help, my goal would be to help people get heaters and air conditioners and replace windows if needed. For right now, we're gonna try to help people paint their houses and see," Ediger said.
Currently, Revitalize Walton is accepting donations for 2018 projects at Walton City Hall, with Ediger noting the goal is to handle renovations for four more homes — aiming to address one per month in May, June, July and August and setting a schedule once applications are received.
Volunteer recruitment is another aspect Ediger is focused on this year, but given the buy-in in year one she is optimistic about what Revitalize Walton will be able to accomplish in 2018.
"I felt really encouraged because I felt really good about how many projects we actually managed to do and how engaged the people were who did help," Ediger said.
Being a bit of a self-professed homebody, Ediger said the community engagement was always a driving force in the project and she is hoping that engagement will grow in year two, rallying the troops to help those in need.
Personally, Ediger admitted as she gets older she is becoming more sensitive to the cases of those Revitalize Walton aims to help — the elderly who are living alone and may not have any family nearby. Maintaining their legacy and, in turn, their homes was something she saw as a need and was very happy to get involved in those efforts.
"The people we helped, they were so grateful and that felt good that we could do something for them. I do have a heart for service and work; I like to work, so it's nice to be able to, as long as I'm physically able, to help somebody who maybe isn't," Ediger said. "There's just something about the nature of giving to others, whether it's your physical service or your financial resources, you just can't outgive. No matter what you do or give, it always gives you back more than you gave in some way."
For more information on Revitalize Walton and how to get involved, visit www.revitalizewalton.com.