By Marnie McAllister, Record Assistant Editor
Hundreds of volunteers from local churches, businesses and organizations repaired the homes of elderly people in need on Saturday, June 15, during the New Directions Housing Corporation’s 20th annual Repair Affair.
Among the volunteers were about 200 from Catholic churches, including St. Patrick, St. William, St. Gabriel, St. Agnes and the Cathedral of the Assumption.
St. Agnes, which has been part of the Repair Affair since the project started two decades ago, provided about 62 volunteers to scrape and repaint an historic shotgun house located off South Seventh Street near Hill Street.
The volunteers also replaced the home’s bathroom — from its flooring to its fixtures — with the help of Metro Louisville. The city also has helped to have the home’s water service repaired. The couple who live there, Gerald and Irene (who wished to withhold the last name), have been without running water since 2008.
Gerald said he was grateful for the volunteers.
“To me, it’s kind of like a God-send,” he said as he watched dozens of children, teens and adults, scrape peeling paint off his home’s Victorian details — including a fish scale pattern and dental moulding.
“I moved in on October 13, 1976,” he said, noting that his son was a year old at the time. “I love the old house. They’re restoring my safety zone, my comfort zone.”
He noted that his home had become unsafe recently because a wooden handrail that served his front steps was starting to weaken. Carrying gallons of water into the house without a reliable railing put him at risk of falling, he said.
Preservation Louisville helped arrange the donation of an iron railing to replace the wooden one. It was donated and installed by the Marian Development Group, said Marianne Zickuhr, executive director of Preservation Louisville.
The preservation organization sponsors a special project devoted to restoring shotgun houses called Preservation S.O.S. — Save Our Shotguns. Its mission dovetailed with the work on Gerald’s house, said Zickuhr. The organization, located in the historic Brennan House on South Fifth Street, also helped select a Victorian paint scheme for the exterior of the home and arranged for the donation of an historic-looking security door from The Door Store and Windows. It has not yet been installed.
St. Agnes volunteers painted the home in those specially selected colors — a warm white field and subtle purple and grey accents — after spending hours scraping and priming the camel-back house.
Among the painters were the Chandler family. St. Agnes School students Camille, age 13, and Campbell, 11, worked carefully and steadily Saturday morning to prime the lower sections of siding while others worked on ladders above them.
Their mom, Sarah Chandler, said her husband Todd has volunteered for Repair Affair several times before. This year, she said, her children were old enough to join in, too.
“It’s great,” she said. “We’re amazed at how many people are here. It’s great to see so many teenagers.”
St. Agnes’ five dozen volunteers were led by Jerry Hettinger, who has been involved in the Repair Affair from the beginning. He brought his wife, two sons, a son-in-law, niece and nephew to volunteer all day.
“This is my Father’s Day gift from my boys,” Hettinger said, pointing out his son Chris Hettinger who was perched on a ladder scraping paint from the house’s highest point.
“This is our way of giving back. We have been blessed.”
He said it’s St. Agnes’ way of giving back, too.
“Every year it amazes me what we can do in one day, how the people come together,” he said. “There’s probably about 150 (parishioners) on our roster for Repair Affair (who volunteer at different times). There’s a core group of about 40 you can count on ever year.”
In addition to the St. Agnes project, New Directions organized about 500 volunteers who worked at 28 other sites June 15.
They did a variety of work, including handyman repairs, painting projects, yard work and drywall and floor repairs.
St. Patrick Church sent about 50 volunteers to repair broken glass and gutters and work on exterior trim and a porch.
St. Gabriel Church had about 18 volunteers who painted the exterior of a home.
Fifty-one volunteers from the Cathedral of the Assumption also did exterior painting, carpentry, plumbing and yard work.
St. William Church sent 20 volunteers to two homes where they did some exterior painting, yard work and repairs.
New Directions, a non-profit organization that develops housing for low-income families, was founded by St. William Church and incorporated in 1971. The corporation established the Repair Affair in 1993 to help low income elderly homeowners maintain their homes.
This summer, the organization expects to do repairs on 150 homes with the help of about 1,500 volunteers.