Jeffrey Diver, executive director of SELF, said when projects are being completed, those renovations can create a “ripple effect” and neighboring residents make repairs to their homes.
The Group Mission Trips blitz week is part of year-round SELF’s Neighbors Who Care: Home Repair Program, a volunteer-driven home repair project that helps around 100 Butler County homeowners each year.
This year’s effort will combine hundreds of volunteers from across the country and local volunteers from Breiel Boulevard Church of God in Middletown, who are committing at least 12,000 hours of free labor to benefit 27 Butler County families.
On Thursday, volunteers from church youth groups were busy building wooden steps where concrete steps were demolished and painting the detached garage. Eddie and Judy Simmons often care for their grandchildren despite having health issues. She recently had heart valves replaced, and he nearly died a year and a half ago due to complications from a blood pressure medication.
Those health concerns delayed home repairs, he said.
“Now they’re being taken care of,” Simmons said.
Several times a day, Simmons has checked on the volunteers like they were his kids. He wanted to make sure they weren’t getting hurt and staying hydrated.
Emma Stavenau, 14, of Minnesota, said she enjoyed working on the house because the couple appreciated the effort though they didn’t know the volunteers.
“It’s all about quality of life,” she said. “We made it better for them.”
Jess Reniva, 18, of Illinois, Rachel Ditzenberger, 15, from Pittsburgh, and Kiele Holland, 16, from Missouri, worked on the backyard deck. They were strangers until this week. Now they’re a team of carpenters.
“It’s really cool to come together and make life better for one person,” Rachel said. “Plus, we’re just a bunch of teens and we all are getting along.”
Reniva was asked if he’d rather be somewhere else Thursday instead of sweating under the hot, humid air.
“No,” he said. “It’s refreshing to be here. For me, this is one of the highlights, a very humbling experience.”
He mentioned in Illinois he lived in a “well-off place.” This week, he slept in Rosa Parks Elementary School at night and paid $464 to volunteer to work during the day.
“People always talk about making a difference and the world needs more of that,” he said. “Sometimes, you have to make change yourself.”
Supports to Encourage Low-income Families (SELF) volunteers have been repairing homes in Butler County since 2010. The organization is celebrating its 1,000th home repair this morning at a residence in the 600 block of Seventh Avenue in Middletown.
Butler County homes repaired by year:
2019: 36 (through May 31)
2019: 50 (June estimate)