Gwinnett County nonprofit works to make homes safer for seniors and other homeowners in need | Entertainment

Jene J. Long

What happens when a caring, concerned group of people see a need and decide to meet that need? Change.

In 2002, a local church community realized they had people all around them who couldn’t physically do or afford what many of us take for granted — home repairs. And not extravagant repairs. Basic repairs — like replacing a broken board. Or installing a grab bar. Or repairing rotted flooring.

So a team formed with the goal of helping those who couldn’t repair, maintain or make changes to their home — things necessary to meet their daily living needs.

As the church’s outreach grew, a larger vision developed. By 2006, Duluth-based Home Repairs Ministries was officially formed and began to work alongside local churches, nonprofits and support agencies throughout six metro Atlanta communities.

Today, Home Repairs completes more than 200 projects per year to create safe and healthy home environments for those who may not otherwise be able to on their own.

Projects like trading carpet for hardwood and repairing a hole in the floor for a Gwinnett named Betty (who asked that her last name not be used), a caregiver for her parents, both in their mid-80s.

With the help of Home Repairs volunteers, the carpets in Gray’s foyer, living room, dining room and kitchen were all swapped with hardwood.

Mark Wolfe, Home Repairs’ executive director, said they originally came to Betty’s house thinking they’d help in another way.

“The original scope of Betty’s project was to repair a hole in the kitchen floor and install new flooring there,” he said. “But starting work, we discovered loose carpeting in the living room, dining room and hallways. This presented a trip hazard for her parents.”

Together with Friends of Gwinnett Seniors, volunteers were able to update all the flooring with a hard surface.

“Working with Friends of Gwinnett Seniors, who provided financial support for new flooring material for all of the rooms, we removed the carpet and installed a safer flooring surface,” Wolfe said.

They also help homeowners who need accessibility modifications.

“My husband had cancer and had to learn how to walk again. As a result, he couldn’t walk up or down our stairs to get in our home. We didn’t know where to start to fix the problem but had heard about Home Repairs Ministries through our church,” said homeowner Amy Shirley. “We contacted them and they came out and built a ramp for us. Because of what they did, my husband was able to get in and out of our home — he would have been homebound otherwise.

“We were absolutely blown away by the help Home Repairs provided. It could not have been a better experience. It was one less thing to worry about during this crisis. What a difference they made in our lives! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!”

This year, Home Repairs Ministries has many projects waiting to be done that were delayed due to the pandemic. They’re hoping to raise more funds to tackle these big needs so they can repair even more homes in the six counties they serve. They’re also focused on forging new partnerships with local nonprofits and churches and recruiting volunteers — skilled and unskilled — as there are many ways to help.

“The need [for home repairs] is great and not getting smaller. In fact, it’s likely growing. For every job we know about, there are probably two or three we don’t even know about,” said volunteer Jeff Bourne. “But I know that the things Home Repairs does usually have immediate results. We are able to fix problems that have often been years in the making and usually fix them in a weekend.

“It’s wonderful to know that you’ve helped and made a big difference in someone’s life.”

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