October 1, 2008

Homesites Sought for House Repair Projects

By Shelby Young

348-4806 [email protected]

As many as 80 homes with a 30-minute drive from Hurricane could receive free work done to their homes, courtesy of a Christian organization which conducts community rehabilitation projects.

"We need to qualify about 80 homes for free housing rehabilitation from REACH Workcamps out of Colorado," according to Hurricane City Manager Ben Newhouse, who has worked with similar programs in the Chelyan area of Kanawha County.

REACH is a non-profit, Christian-based organization established in 1992 that provides service-learning opportunities for junior and senior high youth groups through the completion of community rehabilitation projects.

They will bring 400 to 450 people per week starting July 19 through Aug. 1, he said.

"They pay for everything - materials, custodial, cooks - while they stay at Hurricane High," Newhouse said, adding that the only local money needed is $5,000 in cash or in kind, which he feels the city and other groups will be willing to provide.

Newhouse stressed that the REACH visit provides a huge opportunity for needy community members to have much repairs done to their home at no cost to them. There are no income guidelines to be considered for the project; however, selections will primarily be based on need, Newhouse said.

A REACH representative is coming to Hurricane to tour with city officials as they begin considering homes that will be repaired during the two-week period. The list of homes must be completed by February, according to Newhouse.

The group's main efforts will be focused on flooring, drywall, carpeting, roofing and painting in residences.

This isn't the first contact Hurricane has had with REACH, however.

Craig Burden, who formerly served as Youth Minister at Forrest Burdette, also has served as director of workcamps for the organization.

He previously noted that through the activities and programs, the teens gain skills in meeting new people, giving and receiving encouragement and making lasting friendships.

Teens from Forrest Burdette United Methodist Church in Hurricane also have participated in REACH workcamps.

Hurricane teen Emily Gay last year explained to Metro Putnam that the work camp that the Hurricane students attended was a weeklong mission of service to Oliver Springs, a low-income community in rural Tennessee.

She said they try to make an impact on residents, communities, students and adult sponsors who attend.

"It's a life-changing experience," Emily said, adding that as campers participate in activities that build community and self- esteem, it encourages their own spiritual growth and helps them to understand their own role in combating poverty.

"It's hard work, but it's fun, too," she added.

She explained that at the work camp, you will hammer, measure, paint, hang drywall, repair roofing, caulk windows and more.

One time she did drywall, Emily said, and "the year before that I did an entire roof."

Some area churches have already expressed interest in the project, according to Newhouse.

According to Neil Fisher, director of worksites for REACH, the projects will include the following:

- No more than four to six roofs. Additionally, roofs must be no more than one story and must have less than six/12 pitch. Ideal roofs are ones that may need new shingles installed, but not entirely new decking or rafters. Safety is REACH's first consideration when taking on roofing jobs and budget is second.

- At least eight to 10 painting sites. There can be other small jobs at these sites but nothing too difficult, since REACH will use these sites for junior high workcampers. Junior high worksites usually consist of indoor and outdoor painting, but nothing too tall, so that the use of extension ladders can be minimized.

- About 12 to 15 carpentry sites. This can include wheelchair ramps (which are ideal), porches, steps, railings, etc. Skill and budget become a factor, but REACH can usually afford to do about six to eight carpentry projects per week for an average-sized camp.

- Eight to 10 flooring or drywall sites. These projects are limited due to the time and skill needed to complete them. Workcampers can usually hang drywall, but not always tape and finish it. Flooring projects that require new joists or subfloor might not be within the teens' skill level. But REACH campers can usually take on flooring jobs that simply require new covering (like vinyl tiles).

Ideal sites include an outdoor project, such as painting or a wheelchair ramp, as well as an indoor project, such as painting or flooring.

"That way we can keep campers of all skill levels busy and the crew won't feel like they're working on top of each other," Fisher said. "It never hurts to add a painting job (interior or exterior) to any job site, even ones with other jobs."

- All worksites should be no more than 30 minutes driving time from Hurricane High.

"We are flexible, and our most important goal is to find homes that are in some sort of need and do what we can to improve their quality of living," Fisher added. "As far as contributions are concerned, any resources from the community that are available would be greatly appreciated.

"Also, with financial contributions, we are able to spend more on worksites, which could mean more roofs or other large projects that we couldn't normally take on.

"I know in other areas we have done almost complete renovation of homes just because of the financial contributions from the community. We would like to do as much work for the community of Hurricane as we can, and with financial and other contributions, we're able to do more."

Fisher is entering his 11th summer with REACH Workcamps.

He grew up in Raleigh, N.C.; attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is still completing his degree in physics.

Fisher also spent a year serving as an AmeriCorps member, working full time with Habitat for Humanity in Harrisburg, Pa.

Persons interested in having their dwelling considered for free home repairs can secure an application at Hurricane City Hall or by calling 304-562-5896 to request an application by mail.

Those interested in volunteering should visit REACH online at www.reachwc.org or call 888-REACHWC.

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