Laboring in the heat of June 26, volunteers painted, repaired gutters and plumbing, installed bathroom grab bars and did yard work for an elderly homeowner in the Shawnee neighborhood.
The volunteers from St. Patrick Church and the Central Kentucky Chapter of the American Institute of Architects fixed the 4,000th home in the Repair Affair program’s 28 years.
“We’re really excited with house number 4,000. The homeowner is in the hospital right now. She’s going to be so happy when she gets home,” said Max Monahan, director of home ownership preservation for New Directions Housing Corporation, which sponsors Repair Affair. “It’s all about volunteers helping elderly or disabled homeowners ”
Repair Affair is a program of New Directions, a non-profit focused on creating safe and affordable housing opportunities. It was founded by St. William Church in 1971.
Repair Affair helps low-income homeowners who are elderly or disabled remain in and maintain their homes by regularly sending out volunteer crews to do a variety of work.
“From yard work to repairing furnaces and everything in between,” Monahan said. “In one day, the volunteer can completely change the life of a homeowner in need with simple repairs. Rehanging gutters, installing handrails and grab bars. Their home is like their castle. We want to make sure they can stay in the castle and the neighborhood that they love.”
He noted that Repair Affair can have larger consequences, as well, that can positively affect not only the homeowner in the long run, but their community and their descendants.
“Programs like Repair Affair help homeowners become part of the revitalization of a neighborhood rather than victims. When neighborhoods revitalize, they (the homeowners) can be displaced. This guy is at the door offering money for my house. Should I sell? No, hold on to it; the value of the neighborhood goes up.”
When the home is well maintained, he said, low-income families are able to keep “the only asset in their family to help build wealth over the generations.”
St. Patrick has been involved in Repair Affair for the last 15 years. Larry Jones, the parish’s team leader, said he hasn’t kept track of how long he’s been helping with Repair Affair, but judging by his Repair Affair T-shirt collection, he estimates he’s been involved for about 10 years.
The parish’s team includes people of all ages and skills — from middle school students to retirees and a handful of people with some very helpful skills, such as carpenters, home remodelers and architects.
St. Patrick’s team has a pool of about 50 volunteers, but typically about 20 of them attend its annual Repair Affair workday each June, said Jones.
“We go out and get to see folks and reach out a helping hand. It’s a humbling experience,” he said. “Our folks put in a good, hard day’s work on the Repair Affair day. We do it every year in June, so we get good and hot and sweaty. We get tired, but it’s a good kind of tired. When you take a shower and sit back in your recliner in your air-conditioned home, you know you’ve really helped.”
By the end of the workday, “There’s usually tears welling up in eyes” of the homeowner, he said. “That person is saying, ‘God bless you and thank you.’ That makes it all worthwhile.”
Jones added, “It was especially gratifying to be selected for the 4,000th home.”
In addition to St. Patrick’s team, other homeowners were helped on June 26 by teams from the Cathedral of the Assumption, St. Bernadette Church and St. William Church.
Monahan said St. Agnes and St. Gabriel churches have also been long-term partners from the Catholic community.
Repair Affair works with clients in Louisville and Southern Indiana. Annually, the program works on about 170-200 homes.
Applications for Repair Affair assistance are taken year-round. To qualify for consideration:
- Recipient must own and reside in the home.
- Recipient must be a resident of Louisville, Floyd or Clark Counties in Indiana.
- Must be at least 60 years old or certified as disabled.
- Recipient must qualify as low income, according to federal guidelines.
Volunteer teams of all skills and sizes are needed in the spring, summer and fall. For more information, to help or to donate, call 502-371-4906.