Home renovations for the other America — the one that doesn’t get featured on those makeover shows
In Clearwater, one man is renovating homes for people on limited budgets
The constant rumbling of the nearby generator and burst of the nail gun being fired echo throughout the small, single story home. A day’s work of home renovation is taking place, transforming the home from unlivable to utterly desirable.
Ronnie Brown, 62, a retired low-income home renovator, is removing and replacing a set of kitchen cabinets with two of his crew members.
Brown, who has been living in the High Point area of Clearwater, Fla. for over 30 years, has been purchasing foreclosed or cheap selling homes in order to remodel and resell to families in need. After retiring from his position at the local Walgreen’s, he has since dedicated and focused his life on giving back to local individuals who need suitable family living conditions at a reasonable price.
“I’m just doing what I can to give back to the area that I have called home for so many years,” said Brown. “There is something about this place and I just want to give back in any way that I can.”
Brown was introduced into this sort of lifestyle from a very young age thanks to his father, Mark Brown.
From the age of eight, Brown was riding his father’s coat tail learning the basics of carpentry and household maintenance. The career and passion of his father soon spilled into Ronnie’s life, making it a part of who he is today.
Brown’s father worked construction his whole life and shifted to remodeling kitchens and bathrooms for new homeowners before retiring in early 1990. Any opportunity that he had, he would have Ronnie along by his side to teach him a craft of his trade.
“For as long as I can remember, my dad was teaching me his craft…while other kids were playing sports, I was hammering nails,” said Brown.
After spending 15 years managing a local Walgreen’s, Brown knew that he needed something more. Soon after leaving his position, he was inspired to begin flipping houses from his passion for working with his hands that never seemed to fade away.
Brown would drive the High Point area every day in search of foreclosed or for sale homes that he could purchase at a reasonable price. He would also spend countless hours scanning local listings online in search of places he was interested in.
After purchasing a property, Brown accesses the condition of the home and decides on what needs to be renovated in order to provide a safe, stable environment for families in need.
Brown’s focus was never on supplying a high-end luxury home, only on providing the basics and necessities that any family would need to live. According to Brown, normal maintenance and repairs usually consist of upgrading kitchen storage or surfaces, bathroom equipment such as toilets or showers, and also reconditioning flooring and paint.
The money has also never been a driving factor in what Brown is trying to accomplish by doing what he does.
“There aren’t many people like Ron out there. So generous and willing to lend a helping hand to a complete stranger,” said Peter Dipasquale, a crewmember of Brown for 4 years.
Brown often rents the renovated homes at a price where profit is by no means the center of attention. He focuses more on the key factors associated with daily life in a household than on the monetary value he could generate.
He also often provides homes to individuals who he has known throughout the community for multiple decades.
Brown currently possesses 31 properties with 17 of them residing in the High Point area alone. These homes are mostly rented to family members, friends of family members, or acquaintances that Brown has made over the years. Maintaining the community’s identity and improving its quality of life is what drives Brown on these renovating projects.
“On Highpoint Blvd. alone, I’m renting four separate homes to four different individuals from the same family,” said Brown. “It just shows how tight-knit this place really is.”
Brown’s contribution to the community is not only limited to providing quality homes. He is also extremely active in the local family center which encompasses a wide variety of services to the residents in the area. The center has educational financial services, after-school programs, food and shelter assistance, and Alcohol Anonymous services.
Brown is in the process of creating a children’s course during the summer where they can be taught the basics of crafting and carpentry under him and his crew’s supervision. His goal is to ultimately teach a trade that can be pursued and utilized throughout life much like he used his own father’s lessons.
“It just goes to attest for Ron’s character and what kind of person that he is,” said Dipasquale.