BUFFALO, New York – Mike McGreevy, Brandon Barry and Edwin Andino alone made our grueling marathon around America worthwhile.
We met these three young Americorps workers at an abandoned and dilapidated home they are renovating for PUSH Buffalo, a nonprofit grassroots community organization working to rebuild the West Side of Buffalo. Eventually this home will be used as affordable housing.
For all three men, this is something they are doing to make this blighted post-industrial city a better place to live.
“I got tired of hearing my parents’ generation complain about how bad things are here but not doing anything about it,” said Barry, 25. “So I decided that to make a difference I had to do something about it myself.”
Americorps is a domestic version of the Peace Corps, where workers are paid below poverty level wages to do community service work like this.
“This pays enough for food, but not really enough for a place to live,” McGreevy, 30, said. “But we’re not doing this for the money. This is our city and we want to make it better, house by house.”
Barry and McGreevy are both covered from head to food in grey dust from the house that they are renovating and are evidently tired from their labor. But they radiate a deep sense of satisfaction and purpose. They are truly content and it shows on their faces as they watch the young team members they supervise hauling bucket loads of debris from the house.
The truly impressive thing about these two men is that Barry was an office worker and McGreevy was a salesman before they joined Americorps, both successful and well paid.
“This is what matters,” McGreevy said simply.
Edwin Andino is no less impressive. This 17 year old just left high school and said that doing this for his community matters more than finding a well-paid job.
“If I wanted to make a lot of money, I could be out on the street selling drugs,” he said, wiping the dust from his face. “But there’s more to life than money.”
Photos by Brian Snyder