For many elderly and/or disabled homeowners in rural Appalachia, their home is the only asset they have – no savings accounts, no IRAs or 401(k)s – just struggling to get by from one month to the next on their meager Social Security benefits to put food on the table, pay their utility bills and likely medicines and medical expenses.
Others are the working poor who despite the fact they have full-time jobs are barely scraping by earning the minimum wage – which in West Virginia in the year 2023 is $8.75 per hour ($350 per week before taxes and deductions) – hardly enough to feed a growing family with young children and all that comes with it.
So, when faced with a major expense which must be addressed, such as a leaking roof, rotting floors or a handicap ramp necessary for them to be able to exit and enter their home safely, there is literally nothing that they can do other than worry and wait for the worst yet to come.
But that’s why for decades Americans Helping Americans® has been providing grants to our grassroots partners such as Appalachian Ministries of the Smokies (AMOS) in Jefferson City, Tennessee, and Big Creek People in Action (BCPIA) in McDowell County, West Virginia, among others, to enable them to purchase shingles, drywall, lumber and other building materials and supplies for the housing rehab programs they operate for those homeowners most in need in their communities.
With the spring, comes groups of volunteers from churches, colleges and civic organizations who are willing to donate a week or so of their time and talents helping strangers to be able to continue living in the homes they love.
Recently, we heard from AMOS about an elderly woman named Opal, struggling with dementia and in desperate need of repairs to her home.
Opal’s granddaughter, Sandy, loves and cares for her grandmother, but had neither the means herself or the ability to make the much-needed repairs and was at wit’s end about what to do to save her from the untenable situation, growing worse day by day.
But that all changed one day when Sandy learned of AMOS, and its home rehab program designed exactly for people like Opal.
“When Sandy learned of the AMOS, her care for Opal led her to ask AMOS to help address the substandard conditions of her grandmother’s home,” AMOS reported.
“Blessed with the opportunity and resources, AMOS was able to replace Opal’s bedroom floor and fix her plumbing in her kitchen, which had previously been leaking into the cabinetry and floor.”
To express her gratitude for what AMOS and the supporters of Americans Helping Americans® had been able to accomplish, Sandy wrote a short note:
“I just wanted to thank you guys for helping my grandmother. She is so happy. The group from Gateway was absolutely amazing, so kind and courteous.
“I hope all you guys get blessed abundantly because you have certainly blessed us.
“Thanks again, Opal and Sandy.”
In West Virginia, Kevin and Michelle had had “a rough upbringing and were really trying to change the course of their lives,” reported BCPIA co-executive director Marsha Timpson, who has known Kevin since he was a small child and Michelle since she was a teenager in the small, tightknit community.
“When they became a couple they strived to make changes in their lives even more.”
Marsha reported recently that both of them were employed, and had even saved enough to acquire a small house and were working hard to move forward and build a new life for themselves.
“However,” Marsha noted, “their jobs were not high-paying jobs.”
Then one day their lives where thrown into turmoil when their house caught fire by the chimney which resulted in damage to the chimney and the surrounding area.
“We had two groups come in and they tore out all of the damaged part and reconstructed everything,” Marsha reported, adding, “This time we made sure there was fireproof material around the chimney area. They also replaced the part of the roof and interior of the house that was damaged.”
Then another major setback – shortly after the home was repaired, “Michelle was in a really bad car wreck,” Marsha told us.
While of course upset about the wreck that causes Michelle to suffer serious injuries, Marsha could take solace in the fact that “I was glad to know that once she was able to leave the hospital, she was able to come home to a nice, safe house to recuperate.
“Poor Michelle was facing a broken house and broken bones – and we were able to fix one of those!
“Hopefully, we made things a little easier for them and they can continue to build their lives.”