SVSU Students Help Revitalize Saginaw Neighborhood 

Ten Saginaw Valley State University students, members of the university’s Richard V. Wolohan Fellowship in Service and Leadership, are leading an effort to rehabilitate the exterior of a 127-year-old home in Saginaw as part of a neighborhood revitalization effort in the area surrounding the Mustard Seed Shelter.

The project includes scraping and painting the 2,300 square-foot two-story home, which was built in 1894. The home is located at 1323 Janes Ave. The project is being done in collaboration with the Mustard Seed Shelter and Saginaw-Shiawassee Habitat for Humanity. Work began Friday, May 14 and is expected to be completed Sunday, May 23.

The 2020-2021 Wolohan Fellowship cohort includes:

  • Joseph Bartels, an accounting major from Saginaw
  • Matthew Bartels of Saginaw, who recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing
  • Savannah Bruske, a biology major from Saginaw
  • Alejandra Fulgencio, a biology major from Saginaw
  • Katelynn Jacob, an elementary education/special education major from Freeland
  • Micaela Lewis, a business major from Freeland
  • Alisha Moore, a creative writing major from Saginaw
  • Alyssa Rivera, a literature major from Saginaw
  • Alexandra Schultz, a music major from Saginaw
  • Emily Vogelpohl, a social work major from Saginaw

Matthew Bartels, one of the SVSU Wolohan Fellows leading the initiative, said the idea for the project came from a discussion he had with his aunt, Amy Bartels Roe, executive director of Mustard Seed Shelter. One of Mustard Seed’s guests was raised in the house, which has been in her family for generations. Mustard Seed Shelter has been actively working to help revitalize the neighborhood.

“We just completed a major expansion and renovation project in 2020 that more than doubled our capacity to serve women and children experiencing homelessness,” said Bartels Roe. “From the beginning of that project, our hope was to use it as a catalyst in our neighborhood to improve the quality of life for those we serve, as well as our neighbors and other nonprofits in the area. This initiative represents progress toward achieving the dream of making our neighborhood a beautiful, welcoming place for those who live, work, play and visit here.”

“We chose this house for two reasons,” said Bartels, the SVSU student. “First, this house was built in the late 1800s and is one of very few houses in this area built during this time period still in livable condition. Refurbishing this house will add years to its lifespan and allow it to maintain its place as a piece of Saginaw history.

“Second, refurbishing this house is part of a larger neighborhood revitalization project occurring in this neighborhood. The impact that recent projects such as establishment of the Rufus M. Bradley Community Park and the Mustard Seed Shelter Expansion have had on this neighborhood have been tremendous. Our work on this house will continue the mission of the revitalization project, and we hope that our work will encourage others in the neighborhood to take pride in their own homes and community.”

In addition to providing labor, the Wolohan Fellows sponsored funds for the paint, primer and other materials and supplies, including rental of a scissor lift. Saginaw-Shiawassee Habitat for Humanity also made available materials at very reasonable rates or through loan. Mustard Seed and Saginaw-Shiawassee Habitat for Humanity helped the Wolohan Fellows navigate countless project details.

The Wolohan Family Foundation created the Richard V. Wolohan Fellowship in Leadership and Service at SVSU to encourage students to demonstrate the kind of community leadership that characterized Mr. Wolohan’s life. SVSU students may apply for the program at any stage of their academic career.

More information about Mustard Seed Shelter can be found at For information about Saginaw-Shiawassee Habitat for Humanity, visit