One might say it takes a “village” to repair a house or mobile home to enable low-income elderly and disabled homeowners to be able to continue to live in the place they love and call home.
But the reality is, it takes much more than that.
It takes a small local grassroots nonprofit organization, such as Big Creek People in Action in McDowell County, West Virginia, with the determination and ability to organize groups of volunteers from churches hundreds of miles away, or college students with the drive to spend their spring break working from the early morning to late afternoon to help a complete stranger in need of critical and urgent home repairs.
“McDowell County has the lowest standard of housing in the state of West Virginia,” reports BCPIA co-Executive Director Marsha Timpson. “Sixty-seven percent of the houses were built before 1940 and half are rated below normal-quality levels.
“Many of our citizens suffer because they are not physically able or don’t have the resources to improve their living conditions.”
Marsha noted that despite the pandemic which resulted in fewer church and college groups coming to work in 2020 and 2021, they did manage last year to serve 72 people with housing rehab services including repairing roofs, panting, constructing handicap ramps, repairing floors, bathrooms, porches and more.
“We had 86 volunteers who stayed at our center last year to do community service, and expect more in 2022,” said Marsha.
In addition to the small local organizations and the volunteers who selflessly give of their time and talents, it also takes the support of generous Americans from across the country who contribute to our home rehab program which enables us to provide grant funding to BCPIA and our other partners in Kentucky and Tennessee who do home rehab projects which they use to purchase shingles to repair roofs, drywall, lumber to construct custom handicap ramps, and more.
In her request for grant funding this year from Americans Helping Americans®, Marsha said the funding will be used for rehabilitation project supplies and staff who supervise the work projects.
“Some of our groups have plenty of volunteers, but have a limited budget,” she explained. “Our goal is to seek additional funds to purchase the supplies to keep all of the members of a group busy and to complete the project in the time period the group is here. This will alleviate someone having a half-finished bathroom for several weeks while waiting on another group to come in to finish the project.”
This year, Marsha is hoping to provide repairs to at least 25 homes benefiting nearly 100 elderly and disabled residents struggling to get by on meager fixed incomes – barely enough to put food on their tables and pay their monthly bills – much less being able to afford costly home repairs.
In March, students from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky made the 250-mile trek to McDowell County to spend their spring break not laying on a beach in Florida all day and partying until the wee hours, but instead got up with the sunrise to hammer and nail all day long in volunteer service to others.
Among them was Bonnie, an elderly woman living alone, except for the occasions when her grandchildren are there with her, who had a wall that was deteriorating, “basically open to the elements at the point causing her home to freeze in the winter,” reported Marsha.
“She couldn’t heat her home because the warmth would just escape and cause her energy bill to skyrocket.”
Marsha said that BCPIA has done work for Bonnie in the past and is planning on scheduling more groups to do additional work on her home this summer and told us that “the house needs a LOT of work.”
However, all that effort is worth it for Marsha, describing Bonnie as “a super-sweet lady who struggles to keep things together.”
And there are many people in her community just like Bonnie who have actual holes in their floors, leaking roofs covered with plastic tarps in a futile attempt to keep the rain out and in desperate need of a handicap ramp so they can easily get in and out of their home without risk of serious injury.
“But with the help of generous funders such as the supporters of Americans Helping Americans® and so many dedicated volunteers, we can make a difference in people’s lives by fixing the holes in their floors and putting a roof over their heads.
“We would not be able to do this work on people’s homes if we did not receive the funding to do it…without funding from Americans Helping Americans®, many families will have to be turned away.