Restoring hope in homes for the elderly

  • Family
  • Thursday, 18 Sep 2014

Proud: Anna Maria Sanchez with her newly-repaired home in Euless, Texas.

A volunteer programme in Texas, US, gives the elderly a helping hand.

Anna Maria Sanchez likes to keep her home painted and yard neatly kept, but the tasks became too much for her. Sanchez, 75, a cancer survivor who also has other health problems, worked all her life and never thought of asking for help. But when maintaining her home became too difficult, she turned to 6 Stones, a non-profit group.

Her daughter Nora read about 6 Stones, which helps fix up homes for low-income residents as part of its community power revitalisation programme. She helped her mother apply, and volunteers spent three days in the spring repairing doors, painting, cleaning up her yard and fixing broken plumbing.

Now, 6 Stones and other communities in the Euless area (which is near Dallas in Texas, USA) are encouraging home owners to apply for the “fall blitz” scheduled for early October.

“We are very thankful,” Sanchez said. “I can go out in my yard again and take care of my plants. I am very grateful to the volunteers.” Nora, who often takes her mother to medical appointments, said the home repair programme is a godsend for her family. “We were out there working with the volunteers,” Sanchez said. “We were excited to have the extra hands and get things done.”

Brian Cramer, director of community-powered resources for 6 Stones, said home owners who meet income guidelines can apply for help. The residents are screened, and volunteers meet with them to determine their needs, he said.

Cramer said home owners who apply often have circumstances such as caring for children with special needs or widowhood. Often they put off maintenance, he said. 

“This is hidden poverty. You don’t often see it unless you drive down a street and see that a house needs work,” he said. Home owners in need “are right in our neighbourhoods, and you don’t know it,” Cramer said.

Scott Sheppard, executive director of 6 Stones, said the non-profit, which relies on a network of volunteers, corporations and towns to repair homes, said the mission is all about “the village coming together to take care of the village.”

Other cities are looking to 6 Stones as a model, and the organisation will soon expand, he said. Officials said that working with the faith-based non-profit is a rewarding experience, and that the repair work results in a domino effect to improve neighbourhoods. 

The programme began in Euless in 2008 and spread to the nearby Texas towns of Hurst and Bedford.

Ken Rawlinson, an investigator for the Euless Fire Department who also chairs the community revitalisation committee in Euless, said about 300 homes have been repaired in the three cities. “We recognised more than just prettier properties through the repairs, but dozens and dozens of families with restored hope,” Rawlinson said in an e-mail.

Deputy Bedford City Manager David Miller said he has seen similar results. 

Ashleigh Johnson, a spokeswoman for Hurst, said the community-powered revitalisation brings a “domino effect to neighbourhoods.” The city also has an employee giving day in the spring so that it can help the 6 Stones volunteers with repairs. About 100 homes have been repaired in Hurst, she said. 

Meanwhile, Nora said she plans to volunteer during the fall blitz. “It’s a good feeling to help others,” she said. “We need to pass it forward and do a little if we can to volunteer.” – MCT Information Services

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