On Monday, July 22, 2019, 362 Christian volunteers from across the country headed out into the Woonsocket Community. Their mission, to repair the homes of 47 homeowners throughout the city as part of the Woonsocket Free Home Repair Program, coordinated by NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley. Monday through Friday (July 22-26) volunteers will paint, install wheelchair ramps, replace roofing, update steps and decks, and weatherize the houses, all completely FREE of charge.
The program launched at 8am on Monday morning as the volunteers sleepily piled into the gym at Hamlet Middle School. The group was welcomed by the Mayor of Woonsocket, Lisa Baldelli-Hunt, and a representative from NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley, Meg Rego (Director Resource Development & Communications).
“Thank you for investing in our City” stated the Mayor. She continued, “it is inspiring to see such motivated young people in our community. We know you could have picked to go to many places across the country and we are so happy that you’ve chosen to come to Woonsocket.”
The volunteers are 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 362 volunteers sleep, eat, and shower at the middle school.
2019 marks the third year that NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley (NWBRV) has partnered with an interdenominational Christian nonprofit, Group Mission Trips to provide completely FREE home repairs for 47 homeowners and their families. Headquartered in Loveland, Colorado Group Cares annually deploys 25,000 youth to participate in 36 domestic volunteer camps in communities such as Woonsocket.
Mike Krantz, Missions Developer for Group Cares commented “these are really incredible young people. They are inspired by their faith and use that inspiration to carry out good works in communities all across the country, including your community here in Woonsocket.” He went on to express his thanks for the program staff at NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley for their work coordinating with the families and setting up this year’s camp.
Over the course of the week, volunteers will “collectively contribute 10,860 hours of volunteer labor – with a total economic impact to the community of $291,265,” said Antonio A. Rodriguez, Community Engagement Specialist at NWBRV (this is according to the Independent Sector’s value of Volunteer Time).
“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.
Group Mission Trips reimburses all costs incurred by the Middle School when hosting the volunteers.
There are considerable economic benefits associated with this program. Many of the 47 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 362 volunteers will buy gasoline, food, and other items from local restaurants and businesses on their “free evening,” Wednesday, 7/24 when they explore the city from 1PM to 7PM.
While the community development corporation NeighborWorksBRV is responsible for bring this project to Woonsocket, it would not have been possible without the financial backing of Santander, a Legislative Grant from Woonsocket State Representatives Morin, Phillips and Casey, and volunteer support from Dell. 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.