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Charity battling gentrification in Charlotte's historic Black neighborhoods

Home repairs can be costly and a bit overwhelming for older people who can't afford them. A Charlotte-based charity is there to help.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It's not always easy to make a difference in your community but one organization is doing just that for senior citizens along the Beatties Ford Road corridor, one of Charlotte's oldest Black communities. 

Is there anything more valuable than our seniors? They are the link to the past; their words, stories and experiences will one day make up our history. So, it's society's job to make sure they're cared for and looked after properly. 

It's not easy getting around as we get older, and sometimes, a good day is defined by just getting outside with a good sturdy place to sit. Mary Howey lives in the University Park area, in the same house she grew up in, the one her mom and dad bought new a long time ago.

Credit: Bill McGinty

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"So, no one else has ever lived here but us," Howey said. "This house has been in my family since 1961. Why do I love it so much? The people, they look out for you. Most of these people have been here all their lives, the majority of them, anyway."

For Howey, it's worth protecting because it's home, it's safe, it's filled with memories, and it's something tangible to pass down through family. That's where For the Struggle enters the story.

"This is the historically Black corridor, these are the historically Black neighborhoods," said Alesha Brown, who founded For the Struggle, a Charlotte-based charity that helps keep seniors in their home and in their neighborhoods. "Charlotte is a rapidly growing city and our seniors are among the most vulnerable, so it's very important for us to offer any services we can to make sure they age in place, so to speak."

At Howey's house, that meant a new bathroom to repair rotted subfloors. The upkeep can be costly and overwhelming the older you get. Money has come from Mecklenburg County in the form of grants, as well as from Lowe's, which Brown says helps make repairs. 

RELATED: Make a difference by donating to For The Struggle, Inc.

Seniors can be easy targets for developers who dangle money to buy them out. Their goal? To flip or knock down and start over. Sadly, development and progress can sometimes come at a terrible price. 

"The idea, the overarching idea, is to combat gentrification," Brown said. 

RELATED: Elderly couple ripped off by 'contractor' who charged $6K to expand their driveway

An attorney by trade, Brown's struggle is a labor of love. Love of her elders, and love of her neighborhood. Brown is making a difference in Charlotte's Black history, one neighborhood, one street, one house and one family at a time. 

"I love this house. I love it, some of the people that were around when I first moved to this neighborhood are still here," Howey said. "They're still here and they are trying to hold on to their family's homes."

Staying in your home amid rising costs can be a hardship. If you are 65 or older, you can look into reducing your property taxes, provided you qualify. 

Click here to learn more about how you can donate to For the Struggle to make a difference for Charlotte residents fighting to keep their homes.