From July 24-30, 2016, 55 local homeowners and their families will receive facelifts for their homes. Exterior and interior paint jobs, new roofing, wheel chair ramps, hand rails, and new staircases comprise the hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of improvements provided completely FREE of cost. Who is this magnificent benefactor you ask? An interdenominational Christian nonprofit, Group Cares, headquartered in Loveland, Colorado which sends out 25,000 young people and adults to participate in 36 Workcamps in communities across the United States. This year, Woonsocket is one of those communities.
On July 24th, around 400 teenagers and their adult chaperones will descend on Woonsocket to volunteer a week of their time repairing homes throughout the community. “This represents about 12,000 hours of volunteer labor—with a total economic impact to the community of over $300,000” said Antonio A. Rodriguez, Community Engagement Specialist at NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley.
“These really are remarkable young people,” said Jeff Thompson, of Group Cares. “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.”
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. “This service to the community would not be possible without the support of the Woonsocket Education Department. It’s not every day they get a request to house 400 kids in classrooms” remarked Rodriguez. Group Cares reimburses all costs incurred by the Middle School when hosting the volunteers.
There are also considerable economic benefits to this program. Many of the 54 home repair projects include exterior paint jobs, adding railings, and repairing outdoor steps. 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 500 volunteers will buy gasoline, food, and other items from local restaurants and businesses on their “free evening,” Wednesday, when they explore the city.
While the community development corporation NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley is ultimately responsible for bringing this project to Woonsocket, it would not have been possible without the support of the School Department, City Council, Police Department, Fire Department, Sodexo, and other city officials.
Interested in supporting this initiative? Lend your ladder to the cause. We need 90 ladders ranging from 6’ to 32’ to make this program a success. If you or your friends and family have an aluminum or fiberglass ladder that we can borrow please call 401-365-3301 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. All ladders will be carefully tracked, respectfully treated, and returned immediately after the Workcamp.