It’s a busy summer at Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity (GSHFH). Two Veteran Build Home Preservation projects are underway. A separate home preservation project for a disabled senior citizen was recently finished.
Veterans Build is a Habitat for Humanity national initiative to provide 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.
The home preservation program provides affordable micro-loans to qualifying homeowners who need help with accessibility modifications, home weatherization, general home repairs, yard cleanup, and landscaping. GSHFH works alongside volunteers and homeowners to make repairs.
“Massachusetts has some of the oldest housing stock in the country and many aging homeowners are unable to make needed repairs on their own,” said Aimee Giroux, GSHFH executive director. “We are happy to be able to help them through the repair process so they can continue to stay in their homes.”
McKnight neighborhood, Springfield
Greater Springfield Habitat homeowners Max and Gloria live in the McKnight neighborhood of Springfield and purchased their two-story colonial home from GSHFH in June 2002. In recent years, Max has suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and rheumatoid arthritis, which makes climbing stairs to the second-floor bedrooms challenging. Max said he presented his concerns to Aimee.
“She’s very knowledgeable and she knew just what I wanted and needed,” Max said. “Everything was very smooth and easy. Habitat is always there for me when I need it.”
Max, a former Marines corporal, qualified for the Veterans Build Home Preservation program 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. The grants can be used to rehabilitate eligible veterans’ primary residences.
Habitat was able to help get Max and Gloria approved for a first-floor bedroom and accessible bathroom through the VHRMP program. Additional funding was still needed and Purple Heart Homes (PHH) was there to partner with us, donating an additional $15,000 to the project.
PHH, a nonprofit charity, provides housing solutions for former military members who are disabled and/or have decided to age in place. The organization has two programs – Veterans Aging in place and Veteran Home Opportunity Program (VHOP). VHOP is designed for service-connected disabled veterans who are either ready for the responsibility of homeownership, are looking for a rental home, or are interested in a tiny home.
“Every act of generosity towards our veterans echoes a resounding commitment to honor their service and sacrifice. With deep gratitude, Purple Heart Homes is proud to contribute $15,000 to Greater Springfield Habitat Humanity home preservation project, ensuring veteran Maxwell finds solace and security in a place he can call home,” said John Gallina, CEO and cofounder of PHH. “Our mission extends beyond this gift, as we embark on a dedicated fundraising campaign to reach a goal of an additional $10,000. We believe we’re better together. In collaboration with Habitat for Humanity, we hope to build a legacy of compassion and support for those who have bravely defended our freedom.”
Excavation began in early July with help from RJL Contracting. Longtime GSHFH supporter TNT General Contracting is doing the construction work.
In August, Greater Springfield Habitat in association with Window World Military Initiative, Home Depot Repair Corps, and VHMRP, will perform outside work for former Army Specialist fourth grade Roland and his wife Jo-Ann.
The one-story Monson house, which the couple purchased in 1992, has fallen into disrepair and according to Roland, his insurance company didn’t want to insure it as is because of the state of the siding.
Roland said he knew of Habitat for Humanity from reading articles about well-known volunteer and former President Jimmy Carter and thought there might be an affiliate in Springfield. He reached out to Aimee, who visited his home to help the couple complete the application process.
Window World Military Initiative will donate the siding, replacement windows, a new sliding door, and gutters. They will also provide volunteer support to help with installation.
“Our family is blessed and honored to live in a country that provides the freedoms that we all enjoy, and as a small family business, we are the example of the American Dream,” said Grace Drost, Window World of Western Massachusetts owner. “With that, we can’t forget that those freedoms and the American Dream aren’t free and feel this is an opportunity to thank our veterans for the sacrifices they make so our dreams can come true. One of the core values of our company is rooted in changing lives, and this is a chance for our whole team to give back to those who make the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms.”
Habitat will also replace the deck and provide repairs to the shed roof and general yard cleanup at the home. Preliminary work demolishing the deck began in June with the help of volunteers from Home Depot. Roland said that’s also when the couple picked out new siding to replace the brown exterior with its peach shutters.
“Habitat is excellent. I’m very pleased so far,” Roland said.
East Forest Park, Springfield
In early June, Karen needed help. The exterior breaker box at her East Forest Park, Springfield, home was corroded and rusted. Water had seeped in and destroyed it and there was a risk for fire. Karen, a disabled senior citizen, called “211” for help for the electrical emergency. The operator suggested programs, including GSHFH.
Karen said Aimee had been upfront with her and informed her she might not be able to help, but would see what she could do. Karen did in fact qualify and Greater Springfield Habitat brought in a subcontractor to replace the electrical meter box.
“I’m pleased and very happy with the service all around. The guys who did the work were nice, cordial, and friendly. I liked communicating with Aimee,” Karen said. “I definitely recommend Habitat to others. I only have good things to say about the program and the people I worked with.”
To see more pictures, visit habitatspringfield.org/home-preservation