Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island’s (BCBSRI) Blue Across Rhode Island annual September day of service got a little bit sweeter for Burrillville this year, as NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley was selected as a service site for the second time since 2018.
Blue Cross, in their mission to aid essential nonprofit organizations across the state, selected NWBRV through a competitive application process as a benefactor in their annual goal to support Rhode Island’s vibrant statewide community. In addition to being one of 13 nonprofits selected as part of the tenth annual Blue Across Rhode Islandvolunteer day of service on September 24, NWBRV also received a $5,000 project site grant to support the organization’s overall mission.
Since the inaugural Blue Across RI day in 2012, BCBSRI employees have provided more than 30,000 BCBSRI volunteer hours to selected project sites. BCBSRI Manager Enterprise Architect Tracey Heneghen explained that BCBSRI places focus during the day of service on addressing the social and environmental factors that impact the health and well-being of Rhode Islanders, particularly within the housing space. NWBRV’s unique model suited the central theme of Blue Across Rhode Island to a tee.
“It was extremely rewarding to be working alongside the future homeowners,” Tracey said. “They truly are building a community where all of the diverse homeowners come together to support each other’s dreams of moving into their new home. I’m so glad to be able to contribute to the availability of safe and affordable housing with BCBSRI in partnership with a local organization addressing such a critical need.”
On September 24th, 35 Blue Cross volunteers supported NeighborWorks Self-Help Housing Program in Pascoag, a USDA sponsored program where participants build their own affordable houses. BCBSRI’s BlueAngels came to Pascoag ready to work, in an organization wide effort to finish their homes in time for the holidays.
“Let’s start with a big thank you from all the families!” said NWBRV Construction Supervisor Paul Brais. “In simple math, your hours brought them two weeks closer to their goal. The family members who were there were impressed by how eager and helpful the volunteers were. The quality of work was fantastic!”
While best laid plans involved BCBSRI volunteers working with homeowners to install sheet rock, prime and paint at seven houses across the neighborhood, the weather had a slightly different course in mind.
“The rain delays put the entire project behind schedule, making the volunteer contributions that much more important,” NWBRV Director of Resource Development & Communications Meg Rego said. “We’re incredibly grateful to BCBSRI for their hard work and dedication. This team was dedicated to the cause, worked the full day and made a huge impact for these homeowners.”
Despite rainy conditions, the team assisted with three separate projects, including insulating two houses, sheet rocking three houses and building a fitness trail in the open space adjacent to the development.
“The fitness trail construction was particularly helpful to this community,” Meg said. “The trail had been a goal of the families for a long time and the financial support from BCBSRI, along with the additional construction power, helped to make this dream a reality.”
NWBRV’s inspired Mutual Self Help Housing Program, was founded by the USDA in 1971 and has built 52,000 homes nationwide. It offers low to modest income families the unique opportunity to build their own homes to completion, as well as the homes of their budding neighbors.
The 3 bed, 1.5 bath homes in Pascoag are part of a 30 home, cul-de-sac centered development. Families embrace the “sweat equity” method, which cuts the cost of building by at least 50%, working in committed teams on their homes for a minimum of 30 hours per week.
Buying a house has been a dream my entire life that always somehow, for different reasons, escaped reality. Actually building a house was never even a thought, but it has become one of the most empowering things I’ve ever done. Having the team from BCBSRI take time out of their lives to come out to help us was absolutely amazing, and we couldn’t thank them enough!Sue Yarush, Self Help Housing program participant
Interested families are highly encouraged to inquire about this first come first serve program. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Classes and resources are widely available to qualified and hopeful participants.