The Brown family -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

The Brown family


Valerie Brown’s home will be repaired during the Carter Work Project. She says she hopes the house – which she will share with her daughter, Britany, and uncle, Wallace – will be an asset for the neighborhood.

‘An asset for the neighborhood’

Valerie Brown has been in her home in St. Paul’s East Side since 1999. “This is it,” she said of her plans to stay.

But living with her 20-year-old daughter, Britany, and her elderly uncle, Wallace, in a home built in 1888 has come with challenges. There was the broken furnace, the nonexistent ventilation system, and then the leaky roof. Valerie and Britany are also the primary caregivers to Uncle Wallace and have worked diligently to make their home safe for him, installing handrails and other special equipment throughout.

Together, it has been overwhelming. “You’re so wound up putting out all these fires,” Brown said. So the family turned to revitalization programs in St. Paul and Ramsey County for help, including a new roof. Now she is partnering with Habitat’s A Brush with Kindness program to provide further repairs.

Through her volunteer work, Brown knows St. Paul’s East Side well and is deeply rooted in her community. “A lot of people think the East Side residents don’t care about their properties,” she said, “But nobody chooses to have a run-down home.”

Brown is actively involved with the East Side Neighborhood Development Co., where she used to serve on the board. She is hopeful that she can be part of the growing change to improve the area.

“I want this home to be an asset for the neighborhood,” she said.

Britany works part time but is also a full-time student at the University of Minnesota. She is pursuing a degree in criminal justice and will be starting her junior year this fall.

Brown is optimistic about the future in her renovated home. “I always wanted to learn how to do a garden, and get some color in my yard,” she said. “We’re just terribly excited.”