10/06/2014 11:50 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2014

Neighborhood Revitalization Brings Hope to Families and Communities

It's a scene that's playing out across the country. Empty or dilapidated homes dot neighborhoods, and communities suffering from neglect become overrun by health hazards, drugs and crime.

At Habitat for Humanity, we believe that for families to be successful, sometimes the dynamics of the neighborhood have to change. Building a house isn't always enough of a hand up. Sometimes the entire community needs to get involved. We refer to this as neighborhood revitalization, and it is integral to our work.

With the help of a former president and first lady, two Habitat affiliates in Texas will shine a light on our neighborhood revitalization approach this week. In Dallas-Fort Worth, volunteers will work alongside former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, Oct. 5-11 to help build and repair more than 100 homes. For three decades, Habitat's Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project has engaged volunteers to improve communities across the United States and around the world.

During the build week, Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity will help build 30 new homes and repair 20 homes in the East Oak Cliff neighborhood. The work is part of Dallas Habitat's expanded efforts -- priming neighborhoods for sustainable revitalization that generates economic activity, fights blight, and provides increased opportunities for affordable homeownership.

In Fort Worth, volunteers will build 20 homes and paint 44 homes as part of the "Cowtown Brush Up" program. Last year, Trinity Habitat completed 136 rehab projects as part of its "Preserve a Home" program. Projects ranged from scrape-and-paints to major rehabs with full roof replacements.

Though many affiliates had been working with partners to solve community challenges for a number of years, Habitat's neighborhood revitalization approach officially began in 2010. It was inspired by the idea that focusing on entire neighborhoods could greatly increase the impact of our work. More Habitat affiliates have eagerly joined in, with 230 affiliates currently working in 223 neighborhoods targeted for revitalization. Over 1,900 community projects, which range from neighborhood cleanups to urban gardens, have been completed so far.

Neighborhood revitalization starts at the grassroots level -- with people in the community determining the goals for their neighborhood. Habitat affiliates collaborate with residents and other organizations to improve the overall quality of life in the community. Sometimes a community benefits from freshly painted homes. Other times, a total overhaul is needed and new homes must be built.

Habitat for Humanity of Jacksonville is a great example of the successes we are seeing across the country. The affiliate partnered with residents and three-dozen public and private organizations on the New Town Success Zone, which is dedicated to improving the lives of children and families in the New Town neighborhood on the west side of Jacksonville. Since 2010, Habitat Jacksonville has repaired 125 houses in New Town and built or renovated 90 others with first-time homeowners. A community garden and new playground occupy once blighted properties. Violent crimes dropped 50 percent between 2008 and 2011.

We strongly believe that neighborhood revitalization is the way of the future. By focusing on entire neighborhoods, we can transform the lives of residents and lift up entire communities like New Town and neighborhoods in Dallas and Fort Worth.

While the Carters and thousands of volunteers work to transform communities this week, we invite you to join in our future efforts. Contact your local Habitat affiliate to see how you can help us on our journey as we continue building homes, communities and hope. To learn more, go to