WOONSOCKET, RI, JULY 20, 2017 – On Sunday, July 23rd, 2017, 378 Christian volunteers from 12 states arrive at Hamlet Middle School in Woonsocket, RI. Their mission, to repair the homes of 56 homeowners throughout the city as part of the Woonsocket Free Home Repair Program, coordinated by NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley. Monday through Friday (July 24-28th) volunteers will paint, install wheelchair ramps, replace roofing, update steps and decks, and weatherize the houses, all completely FREE of charge.
2017 marks the second year in a row that NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley (NWBRV) has partnered with an interdenominational Christian nonprofit, Group Mission Trips to provide completely FREE home repairs for 56 homeowners and their families. Headquartered in Loveland, Colorado Group Mission Trips annually deploys 25,000 youth to participate in 36 domestic volunteer camps in communities such as Woonsocket.
After last year’s success with the program, NWBRV received 128 applications from homeowners in need. Out of the 128, 56 local homeowners were chosen to receive upgrades for their homes including, exterior and interior paint jobs, installing handrails, roofing, building wheelchair ramps, siding, repairing stairs and porches, and weatherization. An investment of over $300,000 worth of repairs.
On July 23rd, 378 high-school youth and their adult chaperones will arrive in Woonsocket to volunteer a week of their time repairing homes throughout the community. “Volunteers collectively contribute 11,220 hours of volunteer labor – with a total economic impact to the community of $273, 095,” said Antonio A. Rodriguez, Community Engagement Specialist at NWBRV.
“These are really remarkable young people,” said Jeff Thompson, of Group Mission Trips. “Each one is actually paying for the privilege of working with your community. Workcamp registration fees are used to cover our costs for food, insurance, and building materials.” Each Workcamper contributed $474 to take part in the week.
The youth volunteers will be joined on Thursday by 13 volunteers from Wells Fargo’s Team Member Volunteer Program. These volunteers will be working alongside a group of 6 youth to completely repaint a house on South Main Street. In addition to volunteering their staff time, Wells Fargo also served as the program’s first sponsor, generously contributed $10,000 and providing NeighborWorks the funding necessary to offer free home repairs throughout the city.
“Wells Fargo is proud to participate in NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley’s Free Home Repair Program to improve the homes of so many Woonsocket residents,” said Mark St. Hilaire, Branch Manager, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Rhode Island. “As part of our work, Wells Fargo strives to create positive, lasting impact and this weeklong event enables our team members to achieve this goal alongside a network of strong community members.”
Additional funding for this program was provided by Project Reinvest: Neighborhoods.
The Workcamp will be housed at Woonsocket Middle School Hamlet, with Workcampers sleeping on classroom floors, eating in the cafeteria, and enjoying evening programs in the gym. We at NeighborWorks are thankful to the Woonsocket School Committee for approving use of the school for this project, and to the Woonsocket Education Department and Sodexo for accepting with open arms the challenge that comes from having 378 volunteers sleep, eat, and shower at the middle school. Group Mission Trips reimburses all costs incurred by the Middle School when hosting the volunteers. We are also thankful to Rhode Island Housing for lending the program CO2 detectors, ensuring that the volunteers are safe while sleeping in the school
There are considerable economic benefits associated with this program. Many of the 56 home repair projects include exterior paint jobs, adding railings, and repairing outdoor porches. These types of improvements have been shown to increase property values, especially when improvements are made in a concentrated area. In terms of immediate benefits, great effort was made to purchase the supplies for the home repairs from local establishments and the 378 volunteers will buy gasoline, food, and other items from local restaurants and businesses on their “free evening,” Wednesday, 7/26 when they explore the city from 1PM to 7PM.
While the majority of home repair recipients are concentrated in the Fairmount Neighborhood, they stretch across the entire city of Woonsocket.
While the community development corporation NeighborWorks BRV is responsible for bring this project to Woonsocket, it would not have been possible without the financial backing of Wells Fargo, as well as a grant from Project Reinvent: Neighborhoods. Continued support from the Woonsocket Education Department, the Woonsocket School Committee, Police Department, Fire Department, Sodexo, City of Woonsocket, and other city officials who served on the planning committee also makes this community initiative possible.