Abby Hoover
Managing Editor

Local real estate agents worked on minor home repairs in the Lykins neighborhood this week as part of Habitat for Humanity’s annual Rock the Block project in partnership with the Kansas City Regional Association of Realtors (KCRAR).

“Rock the Block is a Habitat KC program and we go into a neighborhood and identify homeowners who qualify for our Home Preservation Program,” said Kellen Jenkins with Habitat for Humanity. “We try to get as many volunteers out as possible to kind of focus in on one block and make changes that are needed. It’s primarily focused on exterior home repair.”

From 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. last Tuesday through Friday, the realtors addressed needed repairs on the exterior of 12 homes between Indiana and Monroe on 7th Street.

For its fifth year, the groups partnered to work on cosmetic home maintenance that homeowners haven’t been able to address like painting porches and trim, weeding yards, righting fallen fences, installing handrails and cleaning windows.

“We love doing this, we look forward to it every year,” said Angela Knipker, broker for ReeceNichols Northland. “The homeowners are so appreciative of our help and it’s nice to give back to the community.”

In years past, Rock the Block has been a one-day event. But after cancelling last year’s event due to COVID-19, they spaced this year’s project over four days to allow for social distancing and minimizing contact between groups. This year, they had about 10 volunteers on each home and tackled three properties each day.

“Rock the Block is just a huge event and for us, I think it fills our cups, just being able to give back to communities who need us,” said Jane Gaschler with the Northrop Team of RE/MAX Excel. “I personally just love to see all the realtors come together as one big, giant team to help people who need it.”

Over the past five years KCRAR has committed a total of $100,000 to Habitat for Humanity’s home preservation work.

“It goes down to the homeowner level,” Gaschler said. “We all take pride in our homes and our yards, what they look like, and being able to give to these people to spruce up their yards and their homes, it just makes them feel better about themselves and their own communities and where they live. That’s what it’s all about.”

The Lykins Neighborhood Association and Habitat for Humanity began canvassing the street months ago, seeking out homeowners whose homes had cosmetic issues who wanted to participate. Executive Director of the Lykins Neighborhood Association Gregg Lombardi said, to his knowledge, every homeowner who wanted to participate got the opportunity.

Manuel Medina, one of the homeowners whose homes were worked on, moved to the neighborhood decades ago. When he moved in, the street was quiet, clean and mostly inhabited by senior citizens. Since then, many of his neighbors and friends have either passed away or moved out, and the street has deteriorated.

“I believe that it is about time that somebody worked cheaper than a Mexican,” Medina joked about the volunteers repainting his porch. “These guys are amazing. I don’t know how they get the time to do all this.”

He let the volunteers choose the paint color and spent the morning working alongside them in his garden. He used to spend more time tending his roses, making friendly competition with a nonagenarian neighbor’s garden. Now, he spends much of his time caring for his wife, who is disabled, or walking in Budd Park.

“It’s cool to see that when you have people come out and you start doing these exterior projects like this, maybe they don’t seem like the biggest thing, but for somebody who’s either got a physical disability or they have extremely limited income or anything like that, home preservation can be one of those things that they just can’t do because they have to make other choices on the priorities in their life,” Jenkins said. “To be able to come out and help them with that, kind of free that up for them, it’s great to be a part of that.”

The neighborhood response has been incredible, Jenkins said. Neighbors have brought them water, inquired about programs for their own homes or opportunities to help, and thanked the volunteers.

“The minor home repair work they did [last] week is just a fantastic addition to the work they’re already doing and it also makes it easier for homeowners to stay in their houses because a lot of times people do not have the financial capacity to do minor home repairs and they build up into bigger and bigger problems,” Lombardi said.

The neighborhood partners with Habitat for Humanity and Westside Housing on their Minor Home Repair program, which can fund projects up to $12,000. It can address things like a new roof or furnace, and abates tax increases for 10 years.

Daniel Heiman, Home Preservation Program manager with Habitat For Humanity runs the home repairs program in the Kansas City metro area. He was busy directing trucks removing dumpsters, sawing new wood for a porch repair project, and answering his cell phone amid the bustle of activity.

“We started about two months prior getting scopes of work and planning,” Heiman said. “In years past we would do 12 houses in one day with approximately 300 volunteers, but due to COVID we had to spread it out over four days.”

Outside of last week’s event, Habitat for Humanity is working hard in Lykins, partnering with the neighborhood association to address housing needs. Residents can apply for the Home Preservation Program at

“We’ve worked to identify neighborhoods strategically that we know the money we’re investing is going to really make a difference, and Lykins is one of those neighborhoods,” Jenkins said.

Lykins continues to see homeownership rates increase, property values increase, and new developers becoming more interested in the area for commercial and residential reasons.

“We want to be able to support that and by coming in here and doing projects like [Rock the Block] it’s kind of just our way of ensuring that the good things that are happening in this neighborhood continue to happen,” Jenkins said.

Over the next five years Habitat for Humanity will build five new construction homes in Lykins. Earlier this year the nonprofit raised the walls on the first new build in the neighborhood in over 20 years. Some will be near the Lykins Square Park, which is undergoing upgrades funded through Public Improvements Advisory Committee (PIAC) funding, including leveling the soccer field.

“We were really proud to be a part of that and to see that we’re going to really make a long lasting impact on this community,” Jenkins said. “Lykins has been changing a lot… There’s a lot of homes that have been recently renovated or are currently under renovation.”

As the Northeast’s neighborhoods carefully balance affordability and restoration of historic buildings with the ever-present threat of gentrification, Lykins residents are thrilled to have Habitat for Humanity involved, Lombardi said.

“It’s just a big weight off their shoulders and it makes them feel better about the world,” Lombardi said. “We’re really grateful for them coming out and getting all the volunteers involved this week and we’re really grateful to have a long-term partnership with them.”