Summer means vacation, outdoor time, swimming, extra time at home or maybe camp, notes Americans Helping Americans® partner in Cleveland, Georgia, Ann Fleming of Caring Hands Ministries.
“But for some families in our area summer means a very hard time,” Ann told us.
The Georgia Mountain Food Bank, located in nearby Gainesville, reports that even with summer programs more than 80 percent of the children and teens who get a free breakfast and lunch during the school year do not have that help in the summer and are in need of food help.
And that’s where Americans Helping Americans® and our supporters come in.
“Each year for the past four years Americans Helping Americans® has reached out to these families through Caring Hands Ministries,” said Ann. “This year, Americans Helping Americans® send Caring Hands Ministries boxes of food to share with families who need extra food help and cannot go regularly to the feeding sites.”
More than 180 boxes of non-perishable food items, containing enough food to feed a family of four for a week, have already been provided to families served by Caring Hands Ministries in seven northeast Georgia counties.
Although Americans Helping Americans® has provided frozen sandwiches in the past for families, we have come to learn that some families don’t have refrigeration in their homes and cannot use them, even though their children are hungry.
“I gave them to a neighbor, but my girls were hungry,” reported one mother after her refrigerator broke.
“This year’s boxes will prevent that kind of problem and will also be better for families who may be homeless,” commented Caring Hands President Charles Fleming, adding that since the food is canned and packaged it does not require refrigeration and can be used by a family any time during the month where there is a need.
Alexandria, Virginia – Americans Helping Americans® has awarded a $10,000 grant to Big Creek People in Action in McDowell County, West Virginia to support its home rehabilitation program.
Each year for the past several years, Americans Helping Americans® has partnered with Big Creek People in Action to provide necessary repairs to the homes of elderly and disabled homeowners who don’t have the means to pay for the repairs themselves.
Projects include repairing leaking roofs, fixing floors, porches and steps, replacing drywall and sheetrock, and building handicap ramps.
To bring these repairs to fruition takes a three-way partnership: Big Creek People in Action vets and selects the beneficiaries and organizes the projects; groups from colleges and schools come to McDowell County for a week where they volunteer to put in long hours helping someone else in need; and Americans Helping Americans® which provides funding to purchase lumber, shingles and other material and supplies.
Beth Tessema, interim executive director of Americans Helping Americans®, noted that her organization cannot presume to identify the needs in communities such as McDowell County and relies on grassroots organizations such as Big Creek People in Action to determine best how to use grant funding provided by Americans Helping Americans®.
The mission of Americans Helping Americans® is to join communities, build and strengthen neighbor relations and work side-by-side with residents to address community-wide concerns and to link resources supportive of a healthy, safe and economically comparable standard of living.
“Our philosophy is to nurture inclusive communities, unite to create support networks and determine the necessary strategic actions to address chronic, but preventable, problems,” said Tessema.
This past March, dozens of students from colleges and universities such as the University of Notre Dame, the University of Richmond, Emory & Henry College, Rider University and Mars Hill University gave up a spring break on the beach to work long hours, at no pay, helping their fellow Americans in need.
They spent a week getting up early in the morning, and working all day painting homes, installing drywall, repairing floors, porches and stairs, and installing handicap ramps allowing the elderly and disabled residents the ability to enter and exit their house on their own.
Instead of sleeping in a beachfront hotel and eating in expensive restaurants, they slept in a bunk bed in dormitory room with their classmates, and had their supper cafeteria-style at the headquarters of Big Creek People In Action.
Specifically, these students tackled big jobs such as installing sheetrock in Brandi’s cabin at Berwind Lake – built in 1856 – and tore out the old floor. The University of Richmond students spent a week working on the cabin, and when the Emory & Henry students arrived they picked up where the University of Richmond students left off.
Notre Dame students sealed off a trailer roof with cool seal for Nathan, one of our nation’s veterans, in the community of Coalwood.
In the town of Bradshaw, homeowner Wallace was so grateful for the work the students from Notre Dame were doing on his house that he treated them all to pizza for lunch.
Meanwhile, another group of students from Notre Dame repaired a bathroom floor for Mike, another U.S. military veteran, and his wife, Donna, in John’s Branch, where they are raising four of their grandchildren.
Americans Helping Americans® is proud to be part of this team of students dedicated to helping others, and BCPIA, which organizes the volunteer groups, by providing funding to purchase the supplies and materials necessary to make the repairs.
For more information about Americans Helping Americans® please visit www.helpingamericans.org.
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.
An estimated 350 people will be volunteering this year to work on about 40 homes benefiting more than 200 people.
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:
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.
Imagine living in house – the place you and your family call home – with a roof that leaks, floors that sag or worse, and in a condition that can only be described as squalid.
Or perhaps the homeowner is elderly, possibly a veteran who has served our country with dignity and honor, but today cannot get in or out of their house without assistance due to a lack of a handicap ramp.
Then ask why?
When there is barely enough money to put food on the table, keep the lights on, and other more immediate, pressing needs such as medication, making repairs to their home – the only thing they own of any value – comes in at a distant last.
Throughout Appalachia, volunteers are giving up a week of their vacation thinking of, and working to help, strangers hundreds of miles from their home, in tandem with grassroots organizations located in hard-hit communities in McDowell County, West Virginia, and Hawkins and Jefferson counties in Tennessee.
These organizations, Big Creek People in Action, Of One Accord, and Appalachian Outreach, respectively, identify those homeowners most needing help with home repairs in the communities, and organize groups of volunteers who come in to do the work.
That’s where Americans Helping Americans® – and you – come in.
Together, we are able to supply the critical funding to purchase shingles for new roofs, lumber for ramps and flooring, drywall for interior repairs, and more. Without this funding, these homes might not get repaired…this month…or even this year.
This month, while those Americans helping Americans are hammering nails, painting walls, and making general repairs, we will tell you of the true, and dire need in Appalachia today.
And we at Americans Helping Americans® hope to be able to continue to do our part – with your assistance – to keep the hammers hammering, the shingles being placed and the paint flowing.
We will not be asking you to climb a ladder or work sweating outside all day, but we will ask you to pick up a pen and write a check, or simpler still, click on the donate button.
In the upcoming weeks, you will see that it’s not just about making a home repair – but something much more valuable, restoring respect and pride in ownership.
Summer is here, and for many high school and college age students, part of their vacation is spent helping needy homeowners in Appalachia by volunteering to work during the sweltering months of June, July and August repairing homes. The nails they hammer, the paint they roll, the wooden floor planks they cut to size, the roof shingles they staple on…are provided by you. Thanks!
Generally, working in groups of two dozen or so organized by their school or church groups, the young people spread out to West Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky, working with our partner organizations, to assist in the renovations of homes in need of repair, but with the homeowner having no means to pay to fix leaking roofs, sagging porches or to build a handicap ramp.
To make this happen requires partnership – the grassroots organizations who select and vet the recipients, who must own the home; the dedicated volunteers giving of their time and efforts; Americans Helping Americans® which provides grant funding for the purchase of materials such as shingles, drywall and lumber; and, of course, you, who make that funding available.
None of us could do it alone, it takes all of us with a common mission to transform unsafe and unliveable housing, with possibly even life-threating deficiencies – such as no way for residents to exit in case of a fire or structural collapse – into a home the owner can be proud of.
Spring has finally sprung and the sounds of birds chirping and bees buzzing can be heard throughout Appalachia.
But what is really music to our ears at Americans Helping Americans® is the sound of nails being hammered as roofs are being repaired, porches are being rebuilt and handicap ramps are being built so that the elderly and disabled are able to get in and out of their home on their own.
Each spring, the home repair season starts in communities in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia where Americans Helping Americans® provides financial grants to our partner organizations who organize volunteers to do much-needed repairs for homeowners in need.
So thanks to you dozens of homes will no longer have leaky roofs and residents will be able to enjoy the beautiful spring weather on their new, safe, front porch.
“Sam” lives alone in his home in Bean Station, Tennessee on a fixed income and the deck and steps to his front and side door were unstable and unsafe and he doesn’t have the resources to hire someone to do the repairs.
In addition, Sam has health issues and while he may at one time been able to make the necessary repairs to his home himself, that time has passed.
For Sam, trying to get in and out of his house alone was an accident just waiting to happen.
But thanks to you, supporters of Americans Helping Americans®, and our partner in Jefferson City, Tennessee, Appalachian Outreach, it’s a potential accident that has now been prevented.
Appalachian Outreach executive director Jean-Ann Washam told us that last fall, through their home repair program funded in part with a grant from Americans Helping Americans®, the necessary repairs to the steps and front porch have been done, so that come spring he will be able to enjoy the beautiful Tennessee evenings just rockin’ away on that porch.
“The goal of our program is to make homes safer for the homeowners so they can continue to live in their homes,” Jean-Ann told us. “We would not have been able to do this repair this year without the support from Americans Helping Americans®.”
And we would not have been able to provide that support without you.
It’s practically impossible for the vast majority of Americans to comprehend – much less imagine living in — such conditions of squalor.
For thousands in Appalachia, living in a decrepit house, on a meager fixed income and no means to repair leaking roofs, rotten floors, and, in many cases, not even being able to get in or out of their house on their own due to a lack of a handicap ramp, it is just another day.
But it does not have to be that way. Thanks to your generous donations, Americans Helping Americans® is able to provide financial resources to our partners in Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia to not only make the house habitable, but safe, particularly for families with children and the elderly… and a place they can be proud to call “home.”
The transformation you can see for yourself is not only remarkable, it some instances it’s even been called miraculous by our partner, Big Creek People in Action, in War, West Virginia.
In partnership with organizations such as Big Creek People in Action, Appalachian Outreach in Johnson City Jefferson City, Tennessee, and Of One Accord in Rogersville, Tennessee, together, with Americans Helping Americans® providing funding to purchase building supplies from local merchants, and the grassroots groups organizing volunteers providing free skilled labor, hundreds of home repairs are completed during the summer benefiting thousands.
On behalf of those thousands of children who have a safe bedroom where they can lay their head, and those senior citizens who can now enter and exit their home on their own as they wish with a new handicap ramp, we thank you.