Earlier this year, Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity was approached by a man who was experiencing more than his share of bad luck. Jim, of Lowden, IA, had been in a car accident that left him unable to work. In addition, medical concerns had him in and out of the hospital through the winter, and his home’s roof sustained catastrophic damage in last summer’s derecho. When the plaster cracked and began to fall in the dining room, he knew he needed help. Knowing that he would not be able to afford the repairs on his own, he reached out to our organization.
Our Helping Hands program was able to secure grants to pay for the replacement of Jim’s roof, install some much-needed grab bars throughout the home, and arrange for weatherization improvements to the rest of his home. These repairs will help him stay in his home and ensure his continued access to decent, safe housing.
Our partnerships with the Eastern Iowa Regional Housing Corporation and the US Bank Foundation and US Bank Tipton branch were instrumental to the success of this. These organizations provided the funding to pay for the labor and materials needed to get the job done. Without their commitment to the Cedar County community, homeowners like Jim would be without options. Expressing his thanks, Jim said, “I’m very thankful. God bless the people that reached out and made it possible for me to afford to get the work done.”
Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity is excited to announce some recent staffing changes! We sat down with Scott Hawes and Aaron Kiesey, who have both recently transitioned into new roles, to discuss what’s changing for them and for the organization.
IVHFH: Can you tell us what your previous position was?
Aaron: I was the ReStore Co-Director. In addition to overseeing store operations, I focused on building relationships with local corporate and individual donors.
Scott: I was the Helping Hands Program Director, so I worked to connect qualified applicants with local funding, subcontractors, and other resources to make the housing improvements they needed.
IVHFH: And your new role?
Scott: I’m now the Associate Executive Director. I’ll be focusing on organization-wide operations with an emphasis on our ongoing partnership with the South District Neighborhood and developing our Financial Literacy and Homeowner Education program. I’ll continue overseeing Helping Hands operations as well, especially Emergency Repairs and Major Appliance Replacement (ERMAR) projects that we undertake in Johnson County.
Aaron: I’ve moved into the role of Helping Hands Program Director. I’ll be taking over the work of connecting homeowners with the necessary resources to remedy their housing problems, and I’ll be focusing on projects in Cedar, Iowa, Louisa, and Washington Counties.
IVHFH: What are you excited about being able to do in your new role?
Scott: I’m really looking forward to how this staffing change will allow us to increase our reach in the community. For example, these first 9 months of the ERMAR program have shown us that there is a huge unmet need for these types of repairs in our community. Being able to focus on developing and expanding that program is going to be very impactful.
Aaron: I love that I now have the opportunity to directly interface with our clients. In ReStore my focus was raising funds for our affiliate. Now I get to experience up close what those funds can do. I really enjoy building relationships with clients and helping them achieve critical home repairs—I love the direct service aspect of this job.
IVHFH: And just for fun, can you share an interesting fact about yourself?
Aaron: I’m a Certified Mediator in the states of Iowa and Minnesota. Several years ago I opted to take a course through Mitchell Hamline School of Law’s Dispute Resolution Institute. The skills I learned have benefitted me both personally and professionally. It was very enriching.
Scott: I actually used to be a teacher! I taught social studies to students in grades 6 through 12. I’ve taught in Greeley, Iowa, in China through the Peace Corps, and spent 5 years at the Colegio Bolivar in Colombia.
Congratulations, Aaron and Scott! We are so blessed to have you both on our team. Your dedication to service and determination to make community-wide improvements is a major asset to our organization, and we can’t wait to see the amazing things you will do in your new roles.
Through Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity’s Helping Hands repair program, a single-mother in North Liberty has replaced the flooring throughout her home.
Homeowner Geri’s son, Tajiri, has severe allergies. As a baby, Tajiri was experiencing hair loss, breathing problems, skin irritations, and more, but it was difficult to determine what was causing his symptoms. At the time, the family had pets in their home, but suspecting an allergy was causing Tajiri’s health problems, Geri removed the pets from their home. Later testing showed Tajiri suffers from several allergies including pet dander. Tajiri continues to struggle and his allergies make it difficult for him to sleep. Even after years of not having pets, the pet dander in the carpet throughout their home and vent/duct system triggers Tajiri’s allergies. Geri says, “If you have a situation where a child has severe allergies and is allergic to the home, what do you do? Not everybody can just move to another home. It really was a no-win situation.”
As part of the repair project, Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity will had the vents and ducts in the home cleaned. Sobaski Abbey Carpet and Floor donated the labor, materials, and supplies to remove all the carpeting in Geri and Tajiri’s home and replace it with vinyl plank flooring.
Homeowner Geri says, “I tell my foster children from day one, "No matter how it looks, you are never alone. There's always someone in your corner, they just have to find you." I got that saying from my grandmother. When I found out what was wrong with my son and not being able to do what I needed to help him, as a single mother, I felt helpless. But true to my grandmother's words [Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity has] now proved to me that I too, am not alone.”
IVHFH would like to thank Sobaski Abbey Carpet and Floor for their generous sponsorship of this project!
This project is part of Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity’s annual Women Build program. The 2021 Women Build is in honor of Jane Hagedorn, master plumber and former owner of Bea Day Plumbers. Jane and the IVHFH Women Build committee are working with Habitat staff to raise $55,000 to support construction of a new Habitat home in Iowa City as well as the Helping Hands repair for Geri and Tajiri.
Geri and Tajiri's project was recently featured on KCRG: https://www.kcrg.com/2021/04/30/north-liberty-mom-receives-free-flooring-to-help-autistic-son-with-severe-allergies/.
Even in 2020, some traditions couldn’t be changed. Like each preceding year, autumn in 2020 brought pumpkins, costumes, piles of leaves, the first snow of the season, debates about the best Thanksgiving side dishes, and difficult decisions about white or dark meat. For Dana, the comforts that come with these traditions were nearly overshadowed by the stresses of a broken stove and critters sneaking through the gaps in the skirting of her mobile home. These worries were worsened by a loss of income. Without the financial means to replace her stove nor the ability to pay someone to winterize her home, Dana and her son were facing a winter of microwaveable meals and constant anxiety about whether the unwelcome guests below her home were causing damage. After hearing about our new ERMAR service, Dana called IVHFH to learn more about our work and request an application.
Since rolling out our ERMAR (Emergency Repair and Major Appliance Replacement) service on October 1, 2020, the response has been noteworthy. Our office has been inundated with calls from members of our community needing speedy, affordable, and trustworthy home repairs. Even prior to the pandemic home repairs and appliance replacement was a financial burden for many of our friends and neighbors, but the COVID-19 economy brought further hardship and greater demand for our services. Fortunately, our generous donors and amazing partners including the Community Foundation of Johnson County, St. Mary’s Peace and Justice Commission, Mid-American, and West Bank, have supported us in meeting these needs. Together we provided ERMAR services -including furnace replacement, furnace repair, simple electrical and plumbing repairs, roof patching, stove replacement, and winterization- to nine households in the last quarter of 2020. In keeping with our values and mission, each project was completed without creating a financial burden for the homeowners. And with demand remaining strong into 2021, we look forward to continuing our work so that members of our community have access to safe homes.
As for Dana, soon after receiving her application our staff saw to it that her home was winterized. Best of all, staff also arranged for a new stove to be installed before Thanksgiving. Even in 2020, she was allowed her to fill her plate with white meat, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberries on the side. Some traditions can’t be changed.
-Article written by Scott Hawes, IVHFH Helping Hands Manager
plumbing, and electrical. IVHFH will also complete roof repair, ramp construction, and other carpentry work.
IVHFH Executive Director, Heath Brewer, sums up the program, “ERMAR is a response to an unmet need in our community. We get a lot of calls about work that needed to be done yesterday, and a lot of these situations are especially complicated for very low-income households. So, we’ve adjusted some of our processes and procedures and fundraising to be able to respond appropriately to these needs.”
For more information about the program or an application, please contact program director, Scott Hawes, at email@example.com or (319)519-3275.
Our goal is to assist at least 10 Johnson County homeowners in the next year, but we need your help to achieve this goal. Make a donation to the ERMAR program today!
Homes to deliver home essentials to those in our community who are resettling.
When the calendar turns to June, we will get started on a repair project in Wellman. We are excited by the thought of doing what we do best: building. In the meantime, it is reassuring to know that, amid an extraordinary amount of uncertainty that has transformed so much, our community has a strong network of organizations that continue to work to provide safe and decent housing. The Helping Hands crew is happy to roll up their sleeves and be a part of that.
-Article written by Scott Hawes, IVHFH Helping Hands Manager
Small Gift. Big Impact. Campaign Helps IVHFH Finish Critical Home Repair for a Washington Homeowner.
Here is a new twist on an old hypothetical question: What would be your first meal? Specifically, if it was not safe for you to have a refrigerator or stove in your home, what is the first meal you would prepare once your home became safe? For Washington homeowner, Jackie, the answer was her grandson’s favorite: tatertot casserole with chocolate chip cookies for dessert.
As many followers of IVHFH are aware, Jackie’s house was unsafe; the kitchen flooring was damaged so badly that she feared the subfloor would collapse; the cabinet doors did not stay shut; the electrical wiring was outdated and a fire hazard, and the framing for one of the walls was severely rotted. The damage was so significant that Jackie gave away her heavy appliances out of fear that her floor would collapse. Remarkably, Jackie and her grandson lived for more than two years without a washing machine, dryer, and stove. She was resourceful so she leaned on friends to help her with laundry, and she cooked meals in the microwave and crock-pot. Nonetheless, she longed for the day when she could once again spend the time to prepare her grandson’s favorite meal.
Unable to pay for the costly repairs and unable to secure a home equity loan, Jackie turned to IVHFH’s Helping Hands program for a hand-up. After selecting Jackie’s home for an affordable repair project, IVHFH oversaw a complete transformation of the kitchen in which the subflooring was replaced, the floor joists were reinforced, the wiring brought up to code, the framing issues corrected, and new cabinets installed. IVHFH also addressed a few exterior concerns by replacing the electrical service, installing new porch lights, and replacing an exterior door. IVHFH wrapped up the project by installing new light fixtures, a new stove, a new refrigerator, and a washing machine. These repairs mean more to Jackie than simply having a safe home; preparing meals at home allows her to save money and, because
she no longer relies solely on canned food, her meals are healthier. Additionally, she will teach her grandson basic life skills so that he is able to do laundry, cook, and wash dishes. Soon, her grandson will be able to prepare her favorite meal.
IVHFH’s strength lies in bringing people together who wish to make homeownership affordable. This project was no different as more than 70 people came together to support Jackie with nearly $3,000 in contributions to our Small gift. Big impact. campaign. IVHFH is eternally grateful for this support and thanks all who contributed by donating and sharing the campaign with their friends and family. Your support is sincerely appreciated.
-Article written by Scott Hawes, IVHFH Helping Hands Manager
Consider a donation today to help IVHFH reach its $3,500 fundraising goal for this project. With your support, we can help make housing safe for more homeowners in our community.
Approximately two years ago the subfloor in Jackie’s kitchen started to collapse. With the sagging floor came cabinet doors that did not stay shut, a counter top that separated, and constant fear that one false step might cause the entire kitchen to collapse. The problem was so troubling that she removed the refrigerator and stove out of fear the weight of the appliances would cause
the subfloor to finally give out. The kitchen was especially dangerous for her grandson, who she adopted several years ago. Jackie says, “I was at my wit’s end, I didn't know what else to do…I have to do something! And I can’t get a loan anywhere.”
After learning that Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity makes affordable home repairs through the Helping Hands program, Jackie turned to us. Upon inspecting the home, we determined it necessary to update the wiring in the kitchen, reinforce the joists below the kitchen, replace the flooring, replace the cabinets, replace the appliances and install a new counter top. When discussing the project, Jackie looks forward to simple activities that make a home comfortable like doing laundry and baking. She is also excited about passing these skills along to her grandson, “I think just being able to have [my grandson] have chores like normal people, you know because I want to teach him life skills and he wants to cook and he knows how to cook and do laundry, so I want to be able to help him move forward and be what he needs to be in society.”
Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity is undertaking our first Small Gift. Big Impact. campaign in support of Jackie and her
grandson. The goal of this campaign is to provide IVHFH supporters with an opportunity to make a small contribution that will add up to make a big impact on the life of an IVHFH partner. With this in mind, we need a gift of $10 from 350 people. You can donate by visiting any one of the links below.
To those who make a small gift in support of Jackie, she is left nearly speechless, “I don’t think there are words. You could say thank you, but you can’t really…to say how much I appreciate it, I don’t think you can do that.”
Last month we celebrated the two-year anniversary of IVHFH’s Helping Hands repair program by getting our hands dirty with demolition on our next aging in place project. While cruising along Highway 218 from Washington to Iowa City with a truck weighed down by debris and a cast iron tub, I reflected on a few things I have learned during the last 24 months. So, here it is, a not-so-comprehensive list of things that I’ve learned by working in Helping Hands:
1. Helping Hands brings people together. This is not a new idea -in fact it is clearly stated in our Mission Statement- but bringing people together to create housing solutions is the foundation for our success. The current project best exemplifies this sentiment. Occupational therapists from the Washington County Health Clinic volunteered their time to develop the scope of work. Members of the Board of Directors, specifically Lindsay Glynn and Mackenzie Wise, volunteered their time to review the needs of the homeowner and offer advice on how to best meet those needs (along with a million other things to support Helping Hands). Sub-contractors completed installation of the new no-step shower, grab bars, new toilet and the stair lift. Our construction staff completed the demolition of the bathroom, installation of railings, installation of new flooring and finish work around the shower. And office staff helped to develop relationships with donors and financial supporters, so that we could keep the project affordable for the homeowner. Behind each of the people that spent time on the project are dozens of other supporters who donated money, volunteered time, and advocated for our mission. All of these efforts culminated in us ripping up a bathroom, hauling away the wreckage, and then rebuilding to make a home safe and accessible.
2. Safe and accessible homes improve quality of life. For example, a few weeks ago we received an application from a woman who has trouble navigating three steps outside her home. She leaves her house very infrequently, which has a detrimental impact on her mental and emotional health. She was very candid in saying she often feels trapped in her house. We are set to construct a ramp for her later this year and the mere discussion of the project brings a smile to her face. She knows that an accessible home will make it easier to go grocery shopping, visit her family, and get to the movies. This aggregation of lumber, screws, nails and brackets won’t just make the stairs manageable, it will return her independence.
3. Need for critical repairs and aging in place modifications is significant. And although these projects are more economical than enduring unsafe housing or prematurely moving into assisted living, financial hardship prevents too many people in our community from getting their shelter needs met. In the last two years, Helping Hands has helped meet this need by completing projects including ramp construction, roof repair, and modest bathroom remodels for more than 40 households!
You can help! There are many ways to support Helping Hands. Contact Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org or 319-337-8949 for more information.
-Article written by Scott Hawes, IVHFH Helping Hands Manager