This week begins the home repair season for Big Creek People in Action (BCPIA) in McDowell County, West Virginia.

Americans Helping Americans® has recently sent seed funding to BCPIA towards the initial purchase of the building supplies they would need such as lumber, drywall, paint, roofing materials and more. But the need is great, and we are hoping to send $10,000 in the coming weeks.

Beginning March 5, and continuing into October, 25 groups of volunteers from colleges and universities such as the University of Notre Dame, the University of Richmond, Emory & Henry College, Ryder University, Mars Hill College, Centre College as well as numerous church groups will descend into the tiny community of War for a week at time doing repairs for homeowners in need.

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An estimated 350 people will be volunteering this year to work on about 40 homes benefiting more than 200 people.

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BCPIA co-executive director Marsha Timpson said the average cost of repairs to a house is between $500 and $700 with on some occasions allocating up to $3,000 for a single job.

“We do not necessarily limit what can be spent on one home,” Timpson said. “We try to complete any projects to correct health and safety hazards on a home, dependent on volunteers and funding. Sometimes, we may not do every project that a homeowner wants so that we can serve other people that need the services also. We have the lowest quality of housing in the state, so the need is tremendous.”

She also explained that in addition to giving of their time, the volunteers also contribute for their own lodging and supplies — $250 per person per week for church groups and $25 per person per night for college groups.

“The supply budget really varies with each group and what they can come up with,” she said. “It can be anywhere from $200 to $2,000.”

Timpson said some groups, especially the college groups, bring plenty of volunteers – as many as two dozen or so – but not enough funds to keep all the members of the group busy. Funding from Americans Helping Americans® helps to supplement the cost for materials and alleviate the problem of someone having a half-finished bathroom for several weeks while waiting for another group to come in to finish the project.

BCPIA headquarters is located in a former high school with the third floor dedicated to dormitories where the volunteers stay during their week there.

“Much of this fee goes toward the upkeep of the dormitories,” Timpson said. “There is a tremendous amount of laundry and cleaning to do when the groups are here. The majority of them cook their own meals, but sometimes there is a group that asks that we cook the evening meal for them. They pay us $10 to $12 per person for this meal.”

Some of the projects identified by BCPIA that they will be working on this season are:

  • a house in Welch with five 5 adults, 3 who are disabled, and 2 children, 1 of whom is disabled. BCPIA will be installing sheetrock in a bedroom and painting the walls;
  • a house in Warriormines with 2 adults and 2 children, 1 of the adults and 1 of the children are disabled. BCPIA will be installing sheetrock in the home and doing repairs on some floors; and,
  • replacing a bathroom floor at a home in Johns Branch lived in by two disabled adults and four children.

Even averaging repairing 40 homes each year still leaves many remaining on a waiting list of at least 100 more, according to Timpson.

Those whose homes have been repaired are grateful for the assistance.

“I want to say thank you to Big Creek People In Action and Sidwell Friends for all their hard work. You have truly been a blessing. We are very pleased with how everything looks. You have done a wonderful job. Greatly appreciated the young people and the respect they showed by my husband and I. We were blessed to have been able to get to know these people, so a BIG thank you.”

“I greatly appreciate the ramp you all built for me. You really did a great job. Everyone was really great. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

”I want to thank the Big Creek People In Action for sending the Christ United Methodist Church people from Yorkana, Pennsylvania to my house in Berwind, West Virginia. They put shingles on my roof and built me a whole new porch so I will be able to take my husband outside. My husband had a massive stroke and a aneurism in December, 2010, which left him paralyzed on his left side. I am so pleased with the work they did, they were all so nice and sweet and friendly. I can’t begin to say how much I appreciate these good people. I hope the Lord Blesses each and every one of them as much as he has Blessed us. Once again, thanks for all the help.”

And on behalf of the thousands supporters of Americans Helping Americans® who have new roofs, floors and handicap ramps, and the hundreds more who will receive assistance this year, we thank you for making it possible.