Highmark Health grant helps transform Erie’s historic Little Italy
Bhutanese refugees Anil and Dirpa Pradhan lived in a refugee camp in Nepal for 27 years before resettling in Erie in 2016. Anil’s first job in Erie was at Bello’s Market in Millcreek Township. For a few months, he walked three miles – each way – to work every day.
But that long walk toward the American Dream paid off. In 2020, the Pradhans bought their home in the heart of Erie’s historic Little Italy neighborhood with the help of the Sisters of St. Joseph Neighborhood Network’s Genesis Program. For two years, Anil and his wife Dirpa saved money and lived in a small apartment in the neighborhood while their future home was renovated.
Their new home, a 104-year-old house at 352 W. 17th St., had been abandoned for several years, and needed $120,000 in repairs before it was livable.
Built in 1918, the house required an overhaul of its plumbing, heating, and electrical systems. The kitchen and bathroom were replaced. Thankfully, the original woodwork and wood floors were still in good enough condition to be repaired and refinished. New paint and appliances completed the interior work.
Outside, the roof needed repair, and the chimney was rebuilt. Students from Erie High School’s building trades program, along with their instructors, provided initial interior demo work and replaced all new windows. The new siding and front porch repair finished the exterior work. The renovations took two years to complete.
On Tuesday, May 24, 2023, on the front porch of the blue house with white trim, the Pradhans celebrated the completion of the process, thanks, in part, to a contribution that Highmark Health made to the SSJNN’s Genesis program.
“My advice for the refugee people coming to the United States is you will have a bright future,” said Anil Pradhan, 34.
Anil Pradhan’s journey to a bright future was not always easy. After relocating to Erie, it took him seven months to find a job. But his desire to provide for his family and give his children, Azmi, 9, and Aaron, 6, a good education motivated him to keep going. Finally, he landed a job at Plastek, where he has been working for seven years.
The Genesis Housing and Home Ownership Program helps families become homeowners by providing:
- Quality, affordable housing
- Financial assistance
The program covers a range of topics, including:
- Financial literacy
- Basic home maintenance and repair
The Pradhans’ story is a testament to the power of hard work and determination. Their success is a sign of good things to come for Little Italy, and the $900,000 commitment from Highmark Inc. subsidiary United Concordia Dental will help to ensure that the transformation of the neighborhood continues.
“The new funding will go to many different projects,” said Heather May Caspar, Executive Director of the SSJNN. “It helps to fund not just housing programs, but also food security programs and (community) gardens.” SSJNN officials are grateful for the support from Highmark Inc. subsidiary United Concordia Dental.
Sister Phyllis Hilbert, Neighborhood and Family advocate at SSJNN, worked closely with the Pradhan family. “It has been my privilege to minister them,” said Hilbert. “Our New Americans have the vision to imagine and foresee a better future, have the courage to leave the familiar to brave the new, and have the persistence to make the necessary changes to succeed.”
How to apply:
- Find more information on the program here.
- Contact Sister Phyllis Hilbert at 814-454-7814, ext. 203 or Kyle Blackmer at 814-454-7814, ext. 204