It only takes one person to make a difference. When Kyle Caldwell attended a meeting to oppose upscale condos in his Atlanta neighborhood, an off-the-cuff remark by the developer led him on a mission to help his senior neighbors stay in their homes. Before too long, Neighbor in Need was born.
How the project started
Kyle and his buddy, Craig Castle, listened skeptically as the developer outlined his plans to build upscale condos in Atlanta’s East Lake neighborhood. The historic community had seen some hard times, but Kyle loved the diverse neighborhood where he was raising his kids. He worried the project would force his neighbors out.
“We’re going to be great neighbors,” the developer promised, and as things turned out, he was true to his word. But the man said something else that stopped Kyle cold.
“Instead of wasting time fighting a done deal, why aren’t you out fixing up these old homes so the owners can stay?”
Kyle was still digesting these words when a neighbor spoke up. “The 95-year-old woman next door’s back deck is a death trap. I worry if there’s a fire she’d be trapped in her house.” Kyle and Craig looked at each other and agreed the developer had a point. The pair went to check out the old deck.
“This shouldn’t be too hard to repair,” said Craig, a carpenter by trade. Kyle didn’t work in construction, but he volunteered to buy the lumber. The two worked nights and weekends. “Oh my!” the woman exclaimed when she stepped onto her deck for the first time in years, tears streaming down her cheeks.
How the project expanded
Word of their good deed spread. “We’d like to contribute so you can do more,” other community members rallied. Local tradesmen volunteered their services. And there were so many people who needed help, especially those who were older and living on fixed incomes.
Mary Kilpatrick had lived in the neighborhood for 50 years. Her son used to do all her repairs, but he had died in a motorcycle accident. When a local police officer told Kyle about Mary’s leaking windows, he headed over.
Louise Parker, 90, had paid for countless repairs that were never completed, or were done shoddily. In fact, when Kyle went to assess work to be done in her bathroom, he smelled gas and discovered an improperly installed water heater. So Kyle hired professionals to make all the needed repairs in her home.
“You don’t know how much this means to me.” Louise couldn’t stop hugging Kyle.
In nearly 20 years, Kyle, now 58, has arranged for hundreds of repairs and helped set up five other Neighbor in Need chapters throughout Atlanta. “One of the greatest pleasures is the chance to get to know so many wonderful neighbors,” says Kyle. “I feel privileged to be able to help them.”
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.