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 email@example.com or 319-337-8949 for more information.
-Article written by Scott Hawes, IVHFH Helping Hands Manager
Each day I climb a few steps to get in and out of my house. On the days when I feel especially energetic, like Fridays a little after 5:00 pm, I bound up the steps two-at-a-time. Navigating them is so routine that, despite often being preoccupied with my responsibilities at work, my plans for the weekend, and any other topic that requires my time and attention, I never even break stride. Many in our community are not as fortunate. For many family, friends, and neighbors, the challenges presented by those few steps change their lives; they make it difficult to make doctor’s appointments, to meet with friends, to go to work. These steps become insurmountable obstacles.
Earlier this month we met Maria, an Iowa City resident facing the challenges of an inaccessible home. Our Helping Hands crew built the ramp pictured below. The picture is evidence that Maria’s days of mindlessly climbing the stairs, or jumping up the stairs two-at-a-time, are forever in her past. But the picture also shows the future; one with better health, family reunions, and coffee with friends. We are happy to lend a hand to make these moments possible for Maria.
-Article written by Scott Hawes, IVHFH Helping Hands Program Manager
If you, or a loved one, could benefit from a ramp or aging in place modification, contact our office at (319)337-8949 for more information about Helping Hands.
For more than ten years, members of the Women Build Committee have come together to raise money, swing hammers, and support homeownership for first-time buyers. Because of their can-do attitude and willingness to roll up their sleeves, Women Build has become one of IVHFH's great successes. In addition to assisting in all practical matters related to building a house each year, the women of the committee have long inspired our affiliate and pushed us to discover new ways to support affordable homeownership. And as we grew, the Women Build Committee grew alongside -always demonstrating the values that make Women Build so successful. So when IVHFH staff made a request to this year's committee to sponsor a Helping Hands project, the committee unsurprisingly embraced the challenge and got to work. And because of that work, a woman who was facing the problems that accompany inadequate housing can now bathe safely, get in and out of her house without falling, and perhaps even grow a garden next year. So, to the women of the Women Build Committee, past and present, we say thank you. Thank you for supporting this project. Thank you for inspiring us to be better. Thank you for showing us how far a little grit and determination can take us.
Do you need affordable home repairs or accessibility modifications?
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 319-337-8949.
Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity (IVHFH) does not operate on an island. We’re enthused by those in the community and industry who believe in a better life for others. In fact, earlier in the year, our executive director ran into Andy Martin of Martin Construction at a Johnson County Affordable Housing Coalition meeting. He joked with Andy, saying he looked tired and ragged. Andy explained that he was running on fumes, but still managed to drag himself to the meeting. A few months prior to that, GT Karr of Sueppel’s Siding & Remodeling met with our construction staff and I to discuss ways to provide energy audits for low-income residents in our community. And, last fall, Katie Lammers of Lammers Construction and her crew spent most Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at our Women Build, working with volunteers to build a house for an underserved Iowa City family. Finally, Jane Hagedorn, recently retired from Bea Day Plumbers, has spent the better part of 15 years volunteering her time for various IVHFH initiatives. For her efforts, she was inducted into the Iowa Volunteer Hall of Fame in April.
Which leads me to our featured project. Last February, a social worker from the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics called IVHFH to inform us that one of its patients needed a wheelchair ramp. He could no longer manage the steps on his porch and consequently missed several medical appointments. As a result, he was hospitalized with a life threatening condition and prevented from returning home until he could safely enter and exit his house.
Within a week of receiving the call, we’d constructed a ramp and the gentleman was recovering in the comfort of his home. The simple ramp was not a feat of ingenuity. Three guys chipped ice from the sidewalk and then built it with treated lumber, brackets, nails and screws above it. But the project still is noteworthy. It greatly improved somebody’s quality of life, because safe, affordable and decent housing is a basic necessity. It’s a necessity that improves physical health; a necessity that helps children perform better in school; a necessity that allows individuals and families to stand on more stable financial footing.
Too many people live without this necessity, so we build. We get a lot of help from volunteers like Katie and Jane. We draw inspiration from affordable housing advocates like GT and Andy. We lean on our colleagues in the trades, including Karyl Bohnsack, Larry Nelson, Bryan Bunting, Alex Andino, Mike Homewood, Jake Stransky, Jeff Bergo and the staff at Tomlinson-Canon. However, this list isn’t exhaustive.
So, to all IVHFH supporters, we say thank you. We couldn’t build without you.
Article written by Scott Hawes, Helping Hands Manager, Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity
Featured in the August 2019 edition of the Iowa City Area Home Builder's Association Builders News