The Lil’ Brooklyn Neighborhood Association has been working to upgrade the neighborhood this month with several partnerships and projects to renovate houses in the historic area.

Anne Darrah said the association has had groups offering to work in the past few weeks, which has led to an increase in productivity.

Some of the projects have included New Iberia Church of Christ volunteers cleaning an elderly neighbor’s yard, hauling junk old junk that was picked up by the city and recycling metal.

On June 4, more than 20 women from the New Iberia Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority painted the trim on four Lil’ Brooklyn houses, and a member of Our Savior’s Church prepped another house for painting.

On June 11, a group of seven friends volunteered to get involved and will join a homeowner in painting a house. Later in the month, the New Iberia Church of Christ will be bringing a group of 15 high school students from Houston, Texas, and six adults from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho to pitch in as well.

Several members of the local church will be leading the crew to paint two houses.

“The Church of Christ has worked with us for two years and are a fantastic group of generous, kind people,” Darrah said.

The plan for Lil’ Brooklyn improvements came together in February 2020, when Darrah said she was looking to improve her neighborhood and nearby neighborhoods.

“I’m a graphic designer and love architecture and old neighborhoods and knew I could use my skills to help,” she said.

After teaming up with Tammy DeBiasi, a grant writer and housing expert, they teamed up with Lil’ Brooklyn residents Maxine Randall and Dot Antoine, and later Angela and Harold Alexander, who had all been working for years to improve the Lil’ Brooklyn neighborhood.

After registering as a nonprofit, the group planted 40 trees with a giant tree from the Iberia Soil and Water District.

“Our main work is painting houses through grants and donations,” Darrah said.

Caribbean paint colors are selected by Lisa Bourque, a residential designer and volunteer in Lafayette. The association works with volunteers, individuals and groups such as scouts, churches, schools and civic organizations. In the first year, Bayou Paints was instrumental to the group’s success, Darrah said, with Benjamin Moore donating all the paint for the Henry Street houses that were painted in 2020.

Dot Antoine, a resident of Lil’ Brooklyn, said the help from the association has been a huge help to the community.

“It feels like a gift sent down from heaven,” Antoine said. When you look at the residents still residing in original dwellings it brings back many, many old memories.”

Although newly painted houses are the most obvious change for those passing by the neighborhood, Darrah said it is just one part of a bigger reason for doing the volunteer work.

“Our goal is bringing people together, black and white,” Darrah said. “People who may not have known each other in daily life get to know each other in a personal, empathetic way. It is a way to improve New Iberia, and to share kindness with our neighbors.”