Margarita Rodriguez has lived in her home for 31 years. She lives in the Iowa City Forest View community and she has been a source of support for her neighbors for decades. Margarita often puts her neighbors needs before her own, but with the added stress of the Covid-19 pandemic and the looming displacement of Forest View residents, she found her home was in critical need of repairs. Through Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity's Helping Hands Emergency Repair service (ERMAR), Margarita was able to make several home improvements.
Problem: Each time Margarita used her kitchen sink, the water backed up. This issue caused damage to her kitchen floor and cabinets.
Helping Hands Solution: Our ERMAR team discovered the drainpipe from the kitchen sink was installed improperly, which caused inadequate drainage. IVHFH hired a licensed plumber to properly install a new drainpipe so that water could exit the sink with no problem.
Problem: The subflooring in the bathroom of Margarita’s home suffered water damage. As a result, the bathroom floor was unstable, and Margarita feared it would collapse.
Helping Hands Solution: IVHFH hired a contractor to remove and reset the toilet, remove the damaged subflooring, replace it with new plywood, and install new flooring. As a result of these repairs, Margarita no longer has to worry about the floor in her bathroom collapsing.
Happy anniversary, ERMAR! IVHFH’s Emergency Repair and Major Appliance Replacement program, launched in October 2020, is officially celebrating its first birthday. Throughout this last year, we have been in awe of the community’s response to this program. In its first year, ERMAR completed 27 projects, serving 23 households in Johnson County. We continue to be flooded with calls from homeowners who are in need of this service and look forward to expanding the reach of the program. ERMAR staff are currently working with residents of Forest View Trailer Court, many of whom are in need of major repairs to continue living in their homes safely.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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!