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  • Writer's pictureGreater Springfield Habitat for Humanity

Indian Orchard couple praises GSHFH for helping the “little guy”

When Tom and Dolores reached out to Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity (GSHFH), little did they know it would be a full circle moment for both them and the organization. Tom, an Army veteran who served in the 1960s, and his wife live in a two-family Indian Orchard home built in 1927 by Dolores’s grandfather and cousins. The home needed repairs and they required a contractor who understood their financial limitations. The couple contacted Greater Springfield Habitat after seeing a news segment about a Chicopee veteran whose roof was replaced through a partnership with the organization and a local home improvement company.

Tom (left) and Dolores pose in the living room of their Indian Orchard home. They are the latest family to benefit from Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity’s Home Preservation program.

The Chicopee veteran, and Tom and Dolores benefitted from Greater Springfield Habitat’s Home Preservation Veterans Build program. Home preservation provides affordable repair assistance to qualifying homeowners who need help with accessibility modifications, home weatherization, general critical home repairs, yard cleanup, and landscaping. GSHFH works alongside volunteers and homeowners to make repairs. The program focuses on serving the veteran community, seniors, and homeowners with disabilities.

Veterans Build is a Habitat for Humanity national initiative that provides housing solutions, volunteer and employment opportunities for US veterans, military service members, and their families. The program serves limited-income homeowners who are affected by age, disability, or family circumstances and struggle to maintain the condition and utility of their homes.

“If I hadn’t seen the news segment, I would have had no idea about Habitat and its programs,” said Dolores. “Knowing that there are people out there to help us is a blessing. It’s remarkable; it’s like winning the lottery, but in a different way.”

Tom agreed.

“Greater Springfield Habitat is an absolutely phenomenal agency that helps the little guy, with low income,” said Tom, a former sergeant who served on active duty and the national guard.

Tom and Dolores purchased the 5,709 square-foot two family home in 1993, but Dolores had already spent much of her childhood in the house. In fact, when Tom picked her up for their first date, a blind date in 1967, he went to that home.

These days, the couple resides in the downstairs apartment while their adult son lives upstairs. Through time, wear and tear, the house needed repairs. Among them was replacing the downstairs bathtub with a walk-in tub with grab bars as Tom’s balance issues made accessing the bathtub troublesome. Plus, the ceramic tiles in the kitchen and hallway had cracks.

“It sounded like the dog was walking on potato chips when his nails hit the ceramic,” Tom said.

But, Tom, who suffers from several heart-related conditions, can’t do the work he once could.

“Dolores does 100% of everything,” he said. “I used to rebuild car motors. I enjoyed working on cars. It was my stress relief. I can’t crawl under cars anymore. I can’t cook and I can’t cut the grass.”

Greater Springfield Habitat contracted Home and Hearth Remodeling and Restoration in West Springfield to work on the bathroom, while the GSHFH construction crew replaced the tiles with laminate flooring and extended the parquet to the front entryway.

“It was pretty cool,” said Violeta Melendez of GSHFH Construction crew. “Normally we don’t do demolition, but it was cool to learn what people did when installing the original floor. And, the couple was nice, too.”

Next, Greater Springfield Habitat will replace the exterior entryway and fix the stairs. In addition to the Veterans Build Home Preservation program, Tom also qualifies for grants from the Home Depot Foundation and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Veterans Housing Rehabilitation and Modification Pilot Program (VHRMP). The pilot project gives competitive grants to nonprofits that serve veterans or low-income individuals and can be used to rehabilitate eligible veterans’ primary residences.

“We are grateful once again to receive funding from the Home Depot Foundation and HUD VHRMP program so that we can continue to provide repair services to veterans in our community,” said Aimee Giroux, GSHFH executive director.

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