Joan is an amputee who is described by our partner in Cleveland, Tennessee, Ocoee Outreach, as having “a precious spirit” and who desperately a new handicap ramp to allow her to get in and out of her home on her own.
With grant funding provided by Americans Helping Americans® to purchase the lumber, a volunteer team serving with Ocoee Outreach from the Middle Baptist Association in Slyvania, Georgia, which provided free labor, Joan can now enter and exit her home independently.
She had struggled for two years to get in and out of her home, usually calling the EMT’s to get her out when she had to go to the doctor.
But now her life has been transformed.
“I am so excited just to be able to get out and take a ride,” she told us. Watch her appreciation below:
Volunteers and our partner Ocoee Outreach are helping to rehab and repair home in Cleveland, Tennessee. The team gathers together to repair roofs, replace windows, flooring and siding, paint, and construct wheelchair ramps. Some even do specialized interior work.
Most of the clients are elderly, disabled, or suffering from health problems. Some are families with children living in desperate circumstances.
Ocoee’s mission is to rehabilitate enough homes that it gives them the shelter and community identity which they need.
This summer 1,500 volunteers that will work to rehabilitate about 80 homes.
The volunteers provided the labor. We provide cash grant funding to buy the necessary lumber, shingles and other materials to do the work.
The average materials cost per house is $1,500. There are over 80 homes on the renovation list, so every bit of support from the supporters of Americans Helping Americans helps.
Joseph is a veteran who served our nation well. Now retired and living on a meager fixed income in the small Appalachian community of Pine Ridge in McDowell County, West Virginia he struggles to keep food on the table and his bills paid each month.
There is no money left over for home repairs.
And that’s where we, with our grassroots partner there, Big Creek People in Action (BCPIA), teams of volunteer college students came in.
Each spring, BCPIA co-executive director Marsha Timpson pores over dozens of applications for the home rehabilitation program she oversees deciding which households are most in need in repair when she came across Joseph’s.
“There are so many things that need to be done to this home it was hard to decide where to start,” Marsha told us.
One of the first priorities was repairing the bathroom floor which appeared to be a relatively simple job of only having to replace the top floor.
“NOPE! No such luck,” she said. “When we got there tearing out the top floor we saw that subfloor was also rotted out. When we tore out the subfloor we saw the joists were rotten.”
Once they had the entire floor and joists out they realized that the walls were also rotten. And once they had those out they realized “the plumbing was a nightmare” and on top of that the pipes were lead.
“We are basically constructing him an entirely new bathroom,” Marsha said, replacing both the bathtub and the sink. “The only thing we were able to save was the toilet (even though we did have to buy a new seat for it). Thank goodness it hadn’t gone through the floor and busted!”
Three teams of college students began working under the supervisor of an experienced contractor worked on the house this past March.
In the first week of March a team from Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey came in and did a lot of the demolition, followed by a second Rider team the following week which completed the demolition work and started on construction. Next up was a group of students from Notre Dame University which did the plumbing and more construction work.
All three groups also worked on the installing sheetrock and painting the house, as well as tearing out old rotting steps and installing new vinyl siding.
And that’s not all. In April, Marsha has scheduled a group from the First Parish Church of Duxbury, Massachusetts, and in May a group of students from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky who will be coming in to work on the steps and porch.
It’s no wonder why Marsha dubbed this house “the never-ending work project” as there is still much work to do in the bedroom and kitchen as well.
“We thought the project was going to take a week and we started at the first of March and we still have so much to do,” Marsha said. “Some people may think we are doing too much for this one home, but I disagree. How much is ‘too much’ for someone that served our country?”
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.
University of Richmond students working on a generator roof.
In many cases, without these repairs and ramps, the homeowner would not be able to remain in their home due to safety and/or access issues, according to Marsha Timpson, co-executive director of Big Creek People in Action.
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®.
University of Richmond students tearing out old floor at the old cabin at Berwind Lake.
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.
University of Richmond students installing sheetrock in Brandi Wright’s old cabin at Berwind Lake. The cabin was built in 1856.
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.