Projecting positive change
New name, same mission for project:HOMES
In the past decade, ElderHomes has touched the lives of more than 10,000 Central Virginia homeowners, including more than 2,000 in Henrico County.
But its name didn't truly reflect what it had become: an organization that provided home repairs and renovations for a variety of citizens in need, including the disabled, low-income and senior citizens.
"People confused us with being an in-home health care service or a senior builder," said Lee Householder, the organization's executive director.
So after working recently with a consulting firm, the organization developed its new, more fitting name: project:HOMES. The new name took effect this month, and organization officials are hopeful that it will help call attention to the services it provides through three primary initiatives:
• its weatherization program, which makes homes more energy efficient by repairing or replacing inefficient heating systems, adding insulation, caulking and weather stripping and installing other components in the homes of those who qualify based on income levels; typically project:HOMES invests an average of $6,500 into each home it addresses through the program.
• its home repair program, which in Henrico addresses such infrastructure needs as leaky roofs, damaged flooring and others for qualified homeowners who are 62 and older. (The county provides funding of nearly $1 million through its Community Development Block Grant money to allow repair work on 30 homes annually.)
• a volunteer effort that provides small home repairs, yard clean-ups and new wheelchair ramps for qualified disabled homeowners of any age.
The organization maintains waiting lists in each category, Householder said; in Henrico, the average wait for home repairs is about a year and for weatherization about six months.
"Our goal is to use all three programs in one house so that we do all the things that need to be done," Householder said.
Though most of the work it has performed in the county since its inception in 1992 has been in the eastern and northern portions, project:HOMES now sees a fairly even spread of need geographically, he said.
Henrico homeowner Vivian Lindenau, who lives in the Lakeside area, found out about the program several years ago when she was perusing the Henrico County website.
"I read about ElderHomes and thought, 'This is pretty cool,'" she recalled. She had particular interest because her home was in need of repairs. The porch was sloping. The house still had aging asbestos shingles. Rear concrete steps presented such a danger that Lindenau had broken her ankle in three places during a fall in 1996.
Lindenau, a retiree and widower who lives with her son, Grant, applied for the program and was approved, but then learned she didn't qualify because she wasn't yet 62. So she waited several years until she turned 62, reapplied and was approved. The work began this January and was completed about 45 days later. Contractors removed all the shingles and replaced them with vinyl siding, demolished her old porch and built a new one, built a small porch in the back yard to replace the troublesome stairs and replaced her oil furnace with a new HVAC unit. In total, she estimated the value of the work and equipment at more than $40,000.
"You just can’t believe how much of a secure feeling I've got now," she said. "My house was the only house in the whole block that wasn't upgraded. I felt bad about it, but I couldn't afford to have anything else done. Now you wouldn't believe how many of my neighbors said that it's just made the neighborhood even better."
Now, Lindenau is making it her mission to share the word about project:HOMES with as many people as possible.
"There are a lot of people here who could use that help."
To alert those with needs to the services it provides, project:HOMES officials regularly reach out to civic associations and home health care, mental health and social services providers, Householder said. But that can be a double-edged sword.
"One of the challenges is that by publicly stating who we are and what we do, it creates more demand for our services," he said.
The organization relies primarily upon government funding, which comprises about 90 percent of its annual budget, Householder said. It also leans on its volunteers, many of whom come as groups from businesses, religious organizations and community associations and some of whom come as individuals.
"We have some retirees who come every week [to help build wheelchair ramps]," Householder said.
One such volunteer, Henrico retiree Barry Yaffe, said the program has been uplifting for him.
"It's a heartwarming experience being able to help other people," said Yaffe, who is part of a volunteer team that calls itself "Just Ramps." The group meets at the project:HOMES offices every other Tuesday to build a ramp, then installs it at a home two days later.
"The homeowners that receive the ramps get their independence back because they are able to get in and out of their home on their own again," Yaffe said.
In addition to its repair and renovation efforts, project:HOMES also builds and sells several affordable homes each year in the region.
The Varina Ruritan Club hosted the winners of its 2014 Environmental Essay contest at its monthly meeting March 11 in Varina.
The contest, in its eighth year, was for the first time open to students in grades 3-5 at Varina Elementary School. (It previously was open to Sandston Elementary School students.)
The meeting included the winners, parents of the winners, Varina Elementary principal Mark Tyler and several teachers who were in charge of the contest at the school. > Read more.
For the fifth consecutive year, St. Christopher’s and Benedictine will play a varsity baseball game at Glen Allen's RF&P Park as part of a fundraising effort for the River City Buddy Ball program.
The game will take place Saturday, April 12, at 7 p.m., and the teams hope to raise $3,000 through donations, raffles and other efforts. Admission to the game is free, but fans who attend are asked to donate funds for the Glen Allen Youth Athletic Association's Buddy Ball program, which enables disabled children and teens to play baseball. > Read more.
The Henrico Division of Recreation and Parks will dedicate the Highland Springs Little League Majors Field in memory and honor of Rev. Robert “Bob” L. Spears, Jr., on April 12 with a ceremony at the field at 8 a.m.
Spears served the league as a coach and volunteer for 30 years and was praised as a pioneer for equality. His “Finish strong” motto embodied ethical perseverance on the field and in life. > Read more.
Do the Bunny Hop over to Meadow Farm on Saturday for an introduction to all the farm animals there! An introduction to “Global Sounds” – featuring Japanese, Indonesian, West African, Indian, and Brazilian music and dance performances – can be found at the University of Richmond. The University of Richmond will also host the annual Spider spring game, as well as the inaugural Spiders Easter Egg Hunt. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.
‘Muppets Most Wanted’ worthy of its franchise
Do Muppets sleep? It’s hard to say.
They don’t really eat (or breathe, as far as anyone can tell). And only occasionally do they have visible, functioning legs.
As far as anyone knows, sleeping might be off the table. And that makes it very hard to accuse the Muppets of sleepwalking through their latest feature, Muppets Most Wanted – even if that’s exactly what’s going on.
Jim Henson’s beloved creations were back in a big way after 2011’s The Muppets, with fame and fortune and even an Oscar, a first for the group (“Rainbow Connection” was nominated, yet somehow failed to collect at the ’79 ceremony). > Read more.
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