Utica, NY (WIBX) - Johnson Park Center is marking a significant milestone in its quest to improve the lives of those who call the Cornhill neighborhood of Utica home. The group, headed by, Rev. Dr. Maria Scates, is celebrating the grand opening of two energy-efficient residential homes today.

Rebecca McCormick, who was homeless and struggling at one point in her life, lives in one of the 8-units of the LEED Certified Platinum building. Opening her home to reporters this afternoon she said, "I thank God every morning for this home. I get up and say...this is great...I have a beautiful home to come home to. And, I can see having people come in and enjoy it. It's just so exciting to get up and know that I have a beautiful home to come home to."

McCormick is seen in the video below, demonstrating how her new green stove works:

Rev. Dr. Scates says it was a project that started after two young men from the neighborhood were murdered on the corner of Arthur and West Streets in Cornhill. Scates, a staunch community advocate worked tirelessly to bring people and organizations together to help improve the area. She says the LEED Certified Platinum buildings are a reflection of those collective efforts, which are still ongoing.

Standing in front of 1418 West Street, Scates said, "It took us five years but we did it, and it's a power of that change. It took place on what was a wicked corner; Arthur and West. Ricky Powell and Brian West died on that corner...one of them died right in front of the house here and the other one died right on the City line of the sidewalk...After that we said, that's it, no more." After the murders, Scates started her crusade to clean up the neighborhood.

The homes were constructed to assist homeless women and children in Cornhill. Occupants have to follow certain procedures to live in the units. Some of the rules include adhering to a curfew, maintain a clean living environment, as well as allowing weekly inspections of the units. The homes come equipped with Solar Panels, Geo Thermo technology to heat and cool each unit, Induction Ovens, Foam Insulation and many other features under LEED guidelines.

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