Gwinnett Habitat’s home repair program, A Brush With Kindness (ABWK), serves many clients that are elderly and/or disabled. In fact, nearly 50% of the clients fit this description. For many of these individuals, they need more than a simple repair to their home. For example, some do not own a car and rely on friends and family for transportation. Some have financial needs and are served by the cooperative ministries in the area with groceries or other assistance. There are more than a few that have memory issues and forget to pay bills on time or lack simple organizational skills. There are others who live alone and will use any excuse simply to talk to another person. When ABWK is invited into a client’s home, these issues become apparent.
In working with volunteers over the past two years since the program began, some of the sponsors have become aware of these issues that go beyond home repair and have responded in their own way. One of the faith-based sponsors brought out a counselor to talk with the client while the rest of the team performed their repair tasks. Another team of volunteers purchased curtains to give the individual a little more privacy in their home. One volunteer team that had spent many weekends working with a client even attended a funeral when one of the client’s family members died. Recently, a sponsor even took a client to the local cooperative ministry to talk with a financial counselor. All such activities are beyond home repair and have led to serious discussion about how Gwinnett Habitat can help.
In considering the needs of the clients and the creative responses by the different volunteers, ABWK has created a program that can address some of these other needs of the elderly and/or disabled. Since many of the repairs take more than one day (e.g., the repairs take multiple projects), Gwinnett Habitat has created a program called Nurturing Our Community. The title of the program came from one of our faith-based sponsors who wanted to do more to help one of the clients.
Nurturing Our Community is a program in which a sponsor makes a commitment to perform more than one home repair project with a client. The goal is for the sponsor to establish a relationship with the client and provide emotional support in addition to home repairs. While the needs of each client are different, here are some examples of how to nurture a relationship with the client:
– Provide transportation to and from the doctor
– Provide transportation to and from the grocery store
– Provide transportation to and from church
– Coordinate with the local cooperative ministry about the client’s needs
– Help organize or “de-clutter” the house
– Call to follow up on doctor’s visits or medical treatments
– Call periodically simply to talk
– Drop off a plate of food from a church supper
– Visit on holidays or birthdays
If you or your group is interested in Nurturing Our Community, please contact the Gwinnett Habitat office at: 770-931-8080, ext. 1095.