How One Couple's Love Story Sparked Change In Their Community, Block By Block Husband and wife Larry and Sharon Adams have spent the past two decades renovating homes in their Milwaukee neighborhood. Their commitment to their community grew out of their own relationship.

How One Couple's Love Story Sparked Change In Their Community, Block By Block

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It is Friday, which means it's time for StoryCorps. We're on the day after Valentine's Day, which is really becoming almost like Valentine's week here on MORNING EDITION, which is fine. Today, two people whose love for their neighborhood grew out of their love for each other. Larry and Sharon Adams have spent the last two decades bringing boarded up homes in Milwaukee back to life. They started in the '90s when Sharon moved back to the house she grew up in in Milwaukee's Lindsay Heights neighborhood. At StoryCorps, Sharon and Larry remembered how they met.

LARRY ADAMS: I was a contractor, and I was asked to come rewire the house. And somewhere, you asked, did I want tea? I had five jobs going on at the same time. I'm smoking two packs of cigarettes a day and didn't have time for none of that. But out of my mouth came yes.

SHARON ADAMS: And you drank tea with me, and you fixed my switch.

L ADAMS: Free of charge (laughter).

S ADAMS: Free of charge (laughter). And I knew you were looking at me. And I'd never met anyone who had such a gentleness and a firmness at the same time and wouldn't let me look deep into his eyes.

L ADAMS: I wanted to finish the job so that I could fire myself from the job. Then I would engage in dealing with you.

S ADAMS: So we didn't see each other for a while.

L ADAMS: That's true.

S ADAMS: And then...

L ADAMS: Then we went for ice cream.

S ADAMS: That was our first date.

L ADAMS: I'm thankful to God every day since. And I remember in conversation, you told me Walnut Street was a place, historically, where African-American entrepreneurs have resided. And in this area, there were elm trees up and down the block that kissed in the middle of the street.

S ADAMS: Right. So it was very dark on this block - right? - 'cause most of the homes were boarded.

L ADAMS: It was.

S ADAMS: And Christmas Eve, we were sitting in the kitchen looking out.

L ADAMS: And you said, what's going on with those flickering of those lights? And it was crack pipes.

S ADAMS: We looked at each other and said, this is...

L ADAMS: It's not right.

S ADAMS: It's not right.

L ADAMS: And you said...

S ADAMS: I want you to do that house, please. I did say please, right?

L ADAMS: Oh, absolutely. Your eyes always say please. That was the first renovation on this block.

S ADAMS: So the renovation of our own home became secondary to the renovation of our community. And there is such a blessing in the commitment that you and I have for each other. And I get great joy when that commitment manifests itself block by block, household by household.

L ADAMS: Before, I was renovating homes. But to take it deeper, to renovate communities is a purposeful life.

S ADAMS: I love you.

L ADAMS: Love you, too, baby.


INSKEEP: Remember. It's OK to pull over the car if there's a tear in your eye. That was Larry and Sharon Adams for StoryCorps. In 2000, they established Walnut Way, a nonprofit dedicated to revitalizing their Milwaukee neighborhood, which has built and restored more than 100 homes. This conversation will be archived at the Library of Congress.

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