AP NEWS

Volunteers help a mom with home repairs

May 8, 2019

DANBURY — Hammers, saws and paintbrushes in hand, a dozen volunteers — most of them from the First Congregational Church of Ridgefield — spent a day fixing up the home of a single mother in Danbury. They participated in the area’s 32nd annual HomeFront Day on Saturday.

“She’s a mom with two daughters,” Becky Burdumy said of the homeowner benefiting from the repairs.

“A fourth-grader and a high schooler, daughters,” added Pam Steeves. “She’s a single mom.”

Burdumy and Steeves, volunteer coordinators for the group, spoke outside the modest ranch home on Horseshoe Drive in Danbury as folks worked away below a gray morning sky — most of them painting.

“We’re just really lucky we have a nice day this. It’s a really nice day for painting — the sun’s not out,” Burdumy said.

This year, HomeFront Day sent out some 2,000 volunteers from 50 faith groups, civic organizations and businesses to make repairs to 40 homes in Connecticut and nearby New York state, improving the circumstances of “older adults on fixed incomes, single-parent households, persons with disabilities and families in transitional crisis due to illness or job loss,” according to Sean O’Brien, executive director of Stamford-based HomeFront Inc.

“Giving back. Helping,” Dan McGinty, one of the volunteers, said when asked what brought him out for a Saturday of home repair work. “I believe in serving others. If I was in need, I’d hope someone would help me.”

“When you’ve been given so much,” said Paul Siegel, another volunteer, “it’s just good to help out people who aren’t so fortunate. Pay it forward.”

“We’re put on this earth to help each other,” said Steeves.

“We also think it’s important to help the young people, too,” said Burdumy, referring to the two daughters living with their mother in the house that was getting fixed up. “Maybe they’ll pay it back...”

In addition to the group from First Congregational, the dozen volunteers at the Horseshoe Drive house included some from the Church of Jesus Christ in Newtown and at least one volunteer unaffiliated with a religious congregation.

“I’m a non-church-going guy,” said Mike Deleen, a carpenter who’s friends with McGinty, an electrician. “I just happen to know Danny, who’s a good guy and asked me.”

Deleen, proprietor of M. D. Carpentry Specialists of New Milford, was a key contributor.

“He’s doing all the carpentry,” said Steeves.

“I’m tiling the bathroom floor today, and probably going to hang the storm door,” Deleen said.

The day before, McGinty had led a group installing a new stove in the home’s kitchen.

Two decades

The First Congregational Church of Ridgefield has provided volunteers to HomeFront Day for 23 years now.

“First Congregational has a tradition of mission work,” said Burdumy.

“We make Thanksgiving baskets for the Women’s Center in Danbury,” added Steeves. “We do like 30 baskets.”

“We do H.O.M.E. in Maine,” said Burdumy, speaking of an Orland, Maine, charity that battles poverty, homelessness and rural isolation. Groups, including Ridgefield’s First Congregational Church, send teams of volunteers, many of them young people, on repair missions organized by H.O.M.E. that are similar in nature to the more local HomeFront Day.

HomeFront describes itself as “a community-based, volunteer-driven home repair program that provides free repairs to low-income homeowners,” with a goal helping them remain in their homes with an improved quality of life.

HomeFront says it relies on tens of thousands of volunteers, the skills of countless building and remodeling trade professionals, and the generosity of financial donors to deliver free home repairs to low-income homeowners.

Dating back to 1988 when volunteers fixed up 16 homes in Norwalk, HomeFront has over the years completed nearly 3,000 projects in close to 150 communities in Connecticut and New York, delivering more than $40 million in donated products and services.

HomeFront has involved more than 2,900 volunteer teams over those years.

Senior homeowners

The goal is to help people struggling to maintain and stay in their homes — often, but not exclusively, older homeowners.

A news release on this year’s HomeFront effort says: “Area statistics underscore the increasing importance of this effort with more than 40% of older adults today still burdened with a mortgage balance. Hundreds of thousands of local residents live ‘paycheck to paycheck,’ a demographic described by the United Way as ‘A.L.I.C.E.’: Asset Limited Income Constrained and Employed.”

An independent organization since 2010, HomeFront has become more than a one-day effort.

“HomeFront Day is our biggest impact day of the year, but we now organize two additional work days for volunteer groups in June and September, as well,” said Sean O’Brien, HomeFront’s executive director.

“We are now doing more year-round work than ever. We had tackled three jobs already over this winter,” O’Brien said.

The expansion allows HomeFront to help more families. “On HomeFront Day, there were 40,” O’Brien said, “and our goal is to tackle an additional 17 revitalization projects over the summer and fall, so that 60 families will have been helped by the end of our 2019 campaign.”

O’Brien later added, “Since we help many families in addition to homeowners who live alone, we figure that 150 older adults, single parents, persons with disabilities, low-income parents and children will benefit from these 60 projects.”

“...In addition to this, we are tackling three more veteran projects that will be fielded mainly by professional volunteers,” he said, “and we are growing our ‘House Calls’ initiative in which we help families with technical needs that are critical, but more targeted than the needs that can be addressed by a large group of volunteers.

“Small groups of skilled volunteers make these House Calls projects happen and, of course, funding is needed for them, as well.”