Jeannette Branch had a busy schedule, juggling life as a single mother with three kids while battling diabetes. A heart attack added even more stress as she left the hospital confined to a wheelchair. Doctors might have to amputate her left foot. She would have to stay off her feet to avoid surgery. She was in trouble.
“I felt like I would be trapped inside my house for the rest of my life,” said Jeannette, who needed mobility to take care of her kids and to drive to her medical appointments. The problem was six stairs on her front porch.
She called Project: HOMES (formerly ElderHomes) and asked for help. The organization sent a team of volunteers, called Renew Crew, to install a wheelchair ramp to replace her stairs. Jeannette had her independence back.
For twenty years, Project: HOMES has served Central Virginia by helping low- and moderate-income homeowners in need of critical home repairs, such as fixing leaky roofs, replacing inefficient and unsafe heating systems, installing porch railings and grab bars, as well as building and installing wheelchair ramps. Through Project:
HOMES, homeowners receive free home repairs and modifications to their homes if they qualify for services. All clients are low-income, and many are elderly or disabled.
“Many people think we only serve elderly homeowners, but we help many local families in desperate need of repairs and modifications,” said Lee Householder, CEO of Project: HOMES. “The Renew Crew has helped children with spina bifida who need a wheelchair ramp so they are able to catch the morning school bus.”
According to Householder, more moderate-income families are applying for help from Project: HOMES. “These folks often set aside essential home repairs because vital necessities, such as food and medicine, take priority while the damage to the home gets worse and adversely impacts the neighborhood,” says Householder.
There are also many families who live in older homes with asbestos and lead paint which should be removed. Project: HOMES helps more than a thousand families each year with critical home repairs.
While the hard work of hundreds of Renew Crew volunteers gives Project: HOMES the resources to repair homes, the waiting list for help grows every day. Project: HOMES, which serves Richmond and its surrounding seven counties, reports there are more than a thousand families in need of home repair services, and the waiting list for a wheelchair ramp exceeds a hundred.
Churches, corporations, and families are invited to organize a group to build and install a wheelchair ramp or help with a yard cleanup project for an at-risk individual. When a group contacts Project: HOMES, the skill-set of the volunteers is matched to the skills needed for the projects. Project: HOMES provides all the materials and equipment, including safety instruction, building techniques, and easy-to-follow plans. A volunteer coordinator helps direct all projects and provides training on-site. Project: HOMES purchases all the lumber and materials with the help of donations from corporations, churches, and individuals.
Bill Poole has built more than 200 wheelchair ramps as a Renew Crew volunteer. “We’ve all had pretty easy lives compared to our clients,” says Poole, “but building the ramps gives us a chance to pay our good fortunes forward to others in need. The feeling that comes from doing that is far better than any paycheck I have ever received.”