For many low-income homeowners in Appalachia, particularly the elderly, it’s hard enough to put food on the table every day, keep the utility bills paid, and pay for medications they may need, all the while living on a meager fixed income month to month.
So oftentimes, there is no money left over to make necessary repairs to leaking roofs, rotting floors and porches, basic upgrades to kitchens and bathrooms, or even to construct a handicap ramp so they can get in and out of their house on their own.
And that’s where Americans Helping Americans® comes in. For more than 20 years we have been working with our grassroots partners in West Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky to make these repairs and upgrades, often enabling the homeowner to be able to continue to live in the home they love – frequently the only thing of value they own – instead of having to move in with relatives or to a facility.
It takes a team of us to take on this big job year after year starting with our partners such as Big Creek People in Action in West Virginia, Of One Accord and Appalachian Outreach in Tennessee, and Come-Unity Cooperative Care in Kentucky. It is these organizations who do the field work of determining who in their communities are most in need, then organizing and overseeing the projects.
It also takes volunteers – primarily church groups and college students – who spend a week, under the direction of an experienced contractor, ripping up and replacing flooring, installing drywall inside and vinyl siding outside, painting rooms, repairing roofs, constructing handicap ramps and more.
They get up early and work hard all day only for the satisfaction of helping a stranger in need – a person who after a week is a stranger no more, but has become a grateful friend.
But much of this work would not be able to be done without the supporters of Americans Helping Americans®. We don’t ask them to climb ladders or hammer nails, but we do ask for their help to purchase the lumber, shingles and other materials and supplies necessary to do the job.
In sum, it takes all of us working together to bring relief and joy to the faces of dozens of homeowners every year as not only are their homes transformed, but so are their lives.