Blitz of home repairs ‘a real feel-good week’

Several students being supervised by one adult were working outside a home on Hammond Boulevard on a sticky Tuesday morning.

They started building a 43-foot wheelchair ramp on Monday morning, and if everything goes according to plan, the project will be completed by Friday.

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Sponsored by Group Mission Trips, a Colorado-based international nonprofit, and co-sponsored by Supports to Encourage Low-income Families, Butler County’s Community Action Agency, the blitz week helps owner-occupied homeowners who don’t have the physical and financial means to repair their homes, said Jeff Diver, executive director of SELF.

Before Monday, the student volunteers representing 14 states didn’t know each other, and ironically, those building the wheelchair ramp in Hamilton, the third largest in blitz history, won’t have the opportunity to meet the homeowner, a widow of a veteran. While the work was being done, including digging 26 post holes, the homeowner was staying in an assisted-living facility, said John Post, housing specialist for SELF.

Maddison Surles, 15, a high school sophomore from Broken Arrow, Okla., has been on several summer mission trips and likes to meet the people she’s helping. But she’s looking forward to completing the project anonymously.

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“It’s a good thing we don’t get to meet her because we get to bless her though the love of Christ,” said Surles, her T-shirt splattered with paint from previous mission trips. “She is not going to know our names. She will know God sent us. We are doing this for God. We are not doing this for us. It’s a blessing in disguise that we don’t know her.”

Surles realizes the wheelchair ramp will change the woman’s mobility.

“I would hate to be house bound because I love doing things all the time,” she said. “It makes me feel real good that she has the opportunity to come outside.”

The Group Mission Trips blitz week is part of SELF’s Neighbors Who Care: Home Repair Program, a year-round, volunteer-driven, community-building home repair project that will help more than 100 Butler County low-income homeowners stay in their homes more safely in 2018, Diver said. He said each homeowner is screened to assure they’re eligible for the program.

He called the repairs “critical” because they allow residents to remain in their homes and out of assisted living facilities.

Besides the wheelchair ramps, other repairs will include porch and siding fixes, grab bars and other mobility installations, and painting, Diver said. All homes are also checked for working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, he said.

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Post said because of the free labor, SELF receives 10-to-1 in value for every dollar it spends on building materials. He said SELF spent between $40,000 to $45,000 on materials for this blitz, meaning about $500,000 worth of renovations will be completed.

Diver was asked what he sees when he visits the renovation sites in Hamilton, Fairfield, Middletown, Monroe, New Miami, Okeana and Liberty Twp.

“Hope for the future,” he said. “You see these young folks who are giving a week of their time to come out here as part of their summer. It’s a demonstration of their faith. The kids are so joyful in what they are doing. It’s a real feel-good week. For them, for us, for the residents, for the community, for all involved.”


9: Years Group Mission Trips have been held in Butler County.

10: Wheelchair ramps being built this year.

14: States represented by local campers.

53: Homes being renovated.

60: Camps being conducted around the country.

414: Campers volunteering in Butler County.

$40,000-$45,000: Cost of building materials.

$500,000: Value of work being done.

SOURCE: Supports to Encourage Low-income Families (SELF)

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