Meet Leonel Talavera, Neighborhood Revitalization Manager for Habitat for Humanity of Orange County.
Leonel and Habitat OC have played a vital role in our efforts to improve the lives of the residents of Fullerton's Woodcrest Community. We have been partnering with Habitat OC in this neighborhood since 2012, when we began a collaborative effort to train and mentor resident leaders. In January 2014, Leonel joined the effort through Habitat OC's Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative and quickly began to work closely with our Community Building team.
The Woodcrest Community is made up of predominantly Latino lower and middle income families, divided between those who live in the 500-unit apartment complex directly adjacent to Woodcrest Elementary School and the surrounding homeowners. Before our involvement in the neighborhood, safety concerns, gangs, and a general lack of available resources all plagued the community. Together, NWOC and Habitat OC organized local resident volunteers and key community stakeholders, including school administrators at the neighborhood's most vital asset - Woodcrest Elementary. The school serves as "the one safe haven that the residents have," according to Leonel.
Leveraging our resources, we have helped to make Woodcrest a more beautiful, vibrant, healthy, and safe community by determining neighborhood assets and needs via a resident survey and then connecting residents with the right community partners to help facilitate lasting change. At the heart of this collaboration are the weekly meetings held at Woodcrest Elementary where residents are given a voice to speak about the issues and concerns they face. It was at one of these meeetings that the issue of health and wellness was highlighted. Leonel soon became instrumental in implementing a healthy achiever challenge, which sought to promote health and fitness within the community by forming resident walking clubs and organizing a neighborhood bike ride via OCTA's Bike Share Program.
The grassroots collaboration between Habitat OC, NWOC, and the residents of the Woodcrest community has since led to several Neighborhood Pride clean-up and revitalization events, the forming of a resident leadership group, creating an emergency center at Woodcrest Elementary, and conducting a bike clinic for residents.
"Our goal is to leave a well-formed, well-trained group of residents who can make lasting change in their community," Leonel says. “We’re proud of all that our residents have accomplished so far and we’re excited to continue working with them to make the Woodcrest Community a better place to live."