HURRICANE – The sounds of hammers pounding in nails and circular saws cutting lumber filled the air during a recent morning at Whites Mobile Home Park.
And that is true music to the ears of Barbara Reynolds.
Reynolds, who has a pronounced mobility issue, has had serious trouble getting from the parking lot, up the steps and to her front door.
“My porch fell last year and I had a big step out of my front door. It was horrible on me,” she said.
Once the volunteer crews from Reach Mission Trips have completed their work, she’ll have a new ramp and deck.
She doesn’t hold back when she talks about the team, made up mostly of teenagers, who are lending a helping hand.
“They are awesome,” she said. “They are the greatest kids I’ve ever seen.”
Reach Mission Trips are a non-profit organization offering quality workcamp experiences for young people.
Across town in the Elite Heights neighborhood, crews are adding a front and back porches to another home.
Chris Skrzpchak, a team leader and volunteer from Elgin, Ill., has been working with Reach Mission for the last several years and is making his second trip to Putnam County.
For him, it’s a family affair. He brought along his wife, son and daughter.
“I love West Virginia,” he said. “It’s always nice to give back. We have the gifts to serve so it’s important that we do it.”
Ben Newhouse, the town’s city manager, organizes the event, working with Reach Mission Trips to pair volunteer crews with in-need homeowners and residents. It may seem like they just roll into town and get to work, Newhouse said it takes about a year of planning to make the operation run smoothly. Lodging, food, transportation and materials all have to be worked out well in advance.
“We’re basically working on the planning aspect of this year-round,” Newhouse said.
Through the Affordable Housing Fund, Newhouse was able to purchase treated lumber and other building materials. The Affordable Housing Fund provides funding for both technical and housing assistance to non-profits and government entities and to encourage stronger partnerships, collaboration and greater involvement of local communities in meeting housing needs in the state. The West Virginia Housing Development Fund began administering the program in June 2018.
“This is a vital service and we really can’t thank these volunteers enough,” said Erica Boggess, the Fund’s Executive Director. “An initiative like this really goes beyond repair work. These folks are making tangible investments in our community.”
According to Newhouse, the direct benefit to the local economy is almost $1 million.