On a humid summer day on a side road in Downeast Maine, volunteers level a ramp outside of a small home. Inside, more volunteers were painting the bathroom. In the living room, the owners—an older couple—proudly gesture to their already fixed bedroom while they watch the commotion around them. This house has been their home for more than forty years, they moved in as newlyweds and raised a family there. As time wore on, repairs stacked up. The house also became less accessible as they aged. They needed help to stay in the home they loved. That’s where the Mission’s Housing Improvement program came in.
Each year, the Housing Improvement program brings volunteer groups from around New England, and as far away as Ohio, to update homes in eastern Hancock and Washington counties. Homeowners apply for the program in the spring. In partnership with Downeast Community Partners (DCP), the Mission identifies projects that can benefit from both the Mission’s repairs as well as DCP’s weatherization program. “Each season we select homes from over 50 applications,” explains Jenny Jones, Downeast Director. “These applications are screened for many different requirements, such as income level, repairs that fit the skill level of our volunteer groups and improvements or repairs that aid in accessibility and weatherization.”
Then the work begins. This summer, the Mission welcomed eight volunteer groups across eight weeks to improve homes. Altogether, 111 volunteers worked on ten different homes across Cherryfield, Milbridge, Franklin, Gouldsboro, and Steuben. The majority of the work done by volunteers includes making homes safer, accessible, and more energy efficient.
For the couple mentioned earlier, that meant new doors, new drywall, and most importantly an expanded deck. Last year, a large ramp had been added to the front of the house, but the deck was too small for a wheelchair to turn around. This year, the volunteers shored up the ramp and expanded the deck, so it was now wheelchair accessible. These seemingly small changes made a world of difference for the couple who no longer have to worry about getting around both inside and outside their home.
For other homeowners repairs include replacing decks and stairs for safer access to the home, installing new drywall and trim, replacing roofing, adding in more energy efficient windows and doors, building a ramp for wheelchair access, and replacing the skirting on a mobile home.