Meggan and her husband Gene recently volunteered with Extreme Community Makeover (ECM) through a group from Regis Jesuit High School. Her three kids attend Regis. Meggan became aware of the volunteer opportunity on social media. She really liked that ECM offered volunteer opportunities on Saturdays. Plus, the volunteer opportunity was cleaning up in the Swansea neighborhood, where her husband’s family has strong roots.
“My husband’s parents grew up in Swansea. Both his parent’s families lived there. So, it was a very special experience for us to serve this neighborhood. His entire family got baptized at Lady of Grace Church,” explains Meggan.
Gene has fond memories of his early childhood in Swansea. “It was a small tight-knit neighborhood. I remember as a kid walking to the corner store.” Gene’s grandparents were Polish immigrants after World War II. His grandparents, on his mom’s side, were one of the first Mexican immigrant families to move into the neighborhood.
“My family knew everyone in the neighborhood. They didn’t take owning a home for granted and they knew it was in their best interest to make sure the community was successful. If your neighbors succeed, then you also succeed. My family really put their hearts into the neighborhood,” says Gene. His grandma lived just a few blocks away from him and his parents.
“My grandparent’s generation and parent’s generation was pretty special. It was a unique time. You had immigrants coming together to create a new home and to create a close community. Everything revolved around the community and neighbors were considered family,” expresses Gene.
Meggan and Gene really enjoyed their time volunteering in Swansea. “I thought it was cool how throughout the day there were a couple of older residents that came by with their trucks. They wanted to help with hauling out trash and debris. The residents were really excited to clean up. It’s clear that they still have a lot of pride in their neighborhood,” explains Meggan.
The couple makes an effort to visit Gene’s grandma often. She still lives in the Swansea neighborhood and was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. They love to listen to stories of Gene’s upbringing and happy times from those days.
“The world is different now. We all have more mobility and we think more globally. Even so, we can all still make an effort to create family in the neighborhoods where we live. We can volunteer at our schools and churches. We can volunteer with organizations like ECM. It’s possible to develop an atmosphere of family in our neighborhoods. It starts when we focus in on the fact that we are responsible for how the world goes. And, we need to understand that community and relationships help to get us there. We need to make an effort,” says Meggan.
“It starts with a care and wanting to make that effort,” Gene also states.
You too can create a neighborhood family right were you are. All it takes is caring enough to build relationships with your neighbors and those around you. It just takes a little step to make a world of difference. You can also get out and volunteer and support organizations like Extreme Community Makeover!