By Angela Bernhardt, Director of Major Gifts

The deck before renovation.

In August of 2016, we received an email from Spencer Agnew who had recently took on a new position managing the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program at Hennepin County. Beginning in 1974, the CDBG program is one of the longest continuously run programs at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The CDBG program provides funds to the most vulnerable in our communities, including homes for people with special needs, like those served at Hammer.

We had worked with Spencer when he was part of the City of Plymouth CDBG program that has generously supported Hammer for the past fifteen years. He encouraged us to apply for funds available through Hennepin County’s CDBG program, something we had not done before.

A funding request was submitted for a project at our Lee Avenue group home in Golden Valley. We wanted to replace the deck of the home to improve the accessibility, safety and quality of life for the six individuals who call it home.  The deck is part of the entry way to the home and used often as a gathering and relaxation spot. It was aging and in need of being replaced. The total cost for the project would be $15,000.  At Hammer we strive to have our homes fit in with the rest of the neighbors, We want to be viewed as valued members of the community, and our deck was starting to be an eye sore.

The deck after renovation.

To our delight, our request to the Hennepin County CDBG program was approved this summer! Our Director of Environmental Services, Tim Eshelman, and our Chief Financial Officer, Jim Landt, provided the necessary documentation and paperwork to the County, and we received the green light to begin building the new deck.

The deck was removed, and a new deck, complete with a ramp and stairs, was installed. The six individuals, ages 44 to 60, have been supported by Hammer an average of 18 years. “The deck is beautiful and everyone loves it. One of our favorite things to do on a warm weekend is sit on the deck and barbecue hamburgers and hot dogs,” says Lee Avenue manager Sarah Krake.

At Hammer, we are proud to have over 1,000 donors like the Hennepin County CDBG program and relationships with leaders like Spencer Agnew that make our work possible. A total of $1,093,484 was donated by individual donors, businesses and foundations to support the work at Hammer in 2016, with $92,471 donated specifically for home improvements, and $729,786 being undesignated dollars to meet our greatest needs.