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 threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.
Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.
The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.
Canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts soon will have a new access point to the Chickahominy River. VDOT, the James River Association and Henrico County Parks and Recreation are teaming up to establish a new site in Eastern Henrico.
The James River Association negotiated the deal with VDOT to procure official access to the area located just east of I-295 on North Airport Road in Sandston. The site includes a park-and-ride commuter lot bordering the Chickahominy River and has been an unofficial launch site used by paddlers for years. > Read more.
Take in a show at several locations this weekend! West End Comedy will provide laughs at HATTheatre; the production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes” will close Sunday; and the youth theatre company CharacterWorks will present “Footloose” at The Steward School. Another show perfect for the kids – “Despicable Me 2” is playing at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center tonight. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
‘Earth to Echo’ aims to become this generation’s ‘ET’
It’s no secret that all found-footage genre movies are the same. Grab a couple of characters, give one of them a camera, and expose them to something supernatural that’s content to lurk just off-screen until the last five minutes. Everything else will just fall into place.
But that formula isn’t particularly family friendly, if only because that thing waiting a few feet to the left of the cast is usually plotting their violent doom.
That’s what sets Earth to Echo apart from the pack. It, too, follows a group of characters armed with a camera and a tendency to encounter unknown life forms. But all those familiar parts have been rearranged just enough to make it suitable for a much younger audience. > Read more.
An eclectic array of events are taking place this weekend throughout the county. In the West End, we have the Richmond Wedding Expo, the Under the Stars Family Film Series and Henrico Theatre Company’s production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.” In the eastern part of the county, we have a blood drive at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, Gallmeyer Farm’s annual Sweet Corn Festival and an origami workshop at Fairfield Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
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