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  Wednesday August 20th, 2014    

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A Brush With Kindness helps local homeowners (12/05/2012)
By Emily Buss

Do you own your home? Does your home need exterior paint, yard need new landscaping, or is your fence is in need of repair? Could you use a wheelchair ramp? Are you considered low-income or on a fixed income? If you answered yes to any of those questions, Habitat for Humanity-Winona Fillmore Counties wants to help you.

The nonprofit home construction organization started a new campaign this past summer called, A Brush With Kindness (ABWK) that helps homeowners affected by age, disability, and family circumstances maintain the exterior of their homes. Habitat for Humanity-Winona Fillmore Counties Community Outreach Coordinator Megan Grebe said even though the program is in its infancy, it has the potential to have a positive effect on the entire community.

"ABWK was started in the Twin Cities, and then Habitat for Humanity International adopted it as a program nationwide," Grebe said. "As a local affiliate, we saw the need for the program. As you can see when you drive around the different communities in Southeast Minnesota, there is a need to help homeowners with repairs."

This summer, the ABWK home repair program gave seven struggling homeowners throughout the two-county area much needed facelifts for their homes. One Winona resident benefiting from the program is Scott Nation, whose deteriorating hip bones have left him without a way to safely and comfortably enter his home. However, with the help of ABWK, a new wheelchair ramp was built to his front door.

"I was in serious need of a wheelchair ramp because in 1992, I was run over by a forklift, and then in 1996, I was hit by a bobcat," Nation said. "My hips are shot."

Physical therapy throughout the years hasn't helped enough, Nation said. He will have major hip surgery next month, and his house needs to be wheelchair accessible. Volunteer crews worked tirelessly to build the wheelchair ramp, a project that Nation said is "awesome."

"If it wasn't for [Habitat for Humanity], I would have an extended stay at the hospital after my surgery," Nation said. "With the new ramp, I can come home."

Nation said ABWK is also planning to repaint his home next summer. Valspar Paint has donated all the paint for ABWK projects in the area.

To qualify for the program, participants must own their home and be able to pay back the loan used to complete the repair projects. Grebe said while the labor provided by volunteers is free, the homeowner is responsible for the cost of materials used to complete the project.

"The homeowners get to set the terms of that loan, which is zero percent interest," Grebe explained. "We work with them on what they can afford each month. Habitat for Humanity acts as the bank for the program; therefore, they don't need to go to a bank for a loan."

The homeowner must also have income in the range of 30 to 60 percent of median income, and be willing to partner, or work alongside, volunteers as they are able.

"We are still building on the scope of work. We don't want to define it only as painting, or wheelchair ramps, because homeowners may have other repairs that they need done, and we may be able to do that as well," Grebe said. "The important thing to do is have people apply for the program because we might be able to help in a way that the program doesn't currently define as what we do."

The ABWK program is actively seeking Winona and Fillmore County applicants in need of home maintenance work. For more information about the program or to apply, call 507-457-0003 or visit the Habitat for Humanity-Winona Fillmore Counties website. http://www.HabitatWinona.org. 

 

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