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Volunteers ready local homes for winter with Project Comfort

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By Jeff Moore

Crews of volunteers set out Saturday morning to make repairs to homes of local folks who find themselves “in tough spots” as part of the fourth annual Project Comfort.

Some jobs were as simple as putting plastic over windows to weatherize homes and fend off cold air, while others were more complex, requiring talents such as plumbing, electrical and construction.

Among the 68 people who turned out to volunteer their time for Project Comfort, there were plumbers, electricians and carpenters who joined with folks from local industry and churches, Boy Scouts and high school students to assist their neighbors.

“It’s a far-reaching effort,” Project Comfort Organizer Chris White said. “I love it.”

White said the crews performed work on 16 houses and did yard work — raking leaves and trimming shrubs — at four additional homes.

Volunteers were provided with a general outline of each home’s needs but were free to address the needs they saw once on location at each of the homes, he said.

At a home on Paradise Alley, a crew from Dow Corning led by Site Manager Scott Niswonger worked to repair a kitchen ceiling that was falling because of water damage. While the home had a new roof, previous damage remained, causing it to sag.

As team members first tore out parts of the ceiling, they found more damage and determined it all had to be removed. They opted to use their skills to install new drywall.

While they worked in this room, Sister Paula Gohs and other Dow Corning team members performed other housekeeping tasks throughout the home.

Nearby on Taylor Street, a crew repaired doors to keep cold air out of a home. Volunteer John Glauber said the back door didn’t fit properly in the frame leaving a gap of more than an inch. On the front of the home, the screen door was removed to fix a bottom panel that was loose and letting in cold air. While at the home, this crew also trimmed trees that were touching the house, repaired gutters and downspouts and cleaned out the gutters.

Just around the corner on Fourth Street, a home needed the construction talents of Bimp McAlister and Bill Scribner to build an enclosure to the cellar. This area was open to the outside allowing cold air into the basement and then into the house. On this job site, crew members also placed plastic on windows, fixed gutters and downspouts and repaired siding on one wall of the house.

A few blocks away, Eddie Grimes worked to replace a screen door on the side of a home, while others there worked on plumbing issues, placed plastic on windows, caulked around windows and planned work to install drywall in one room.

White explained that in its first year, Project Comfort worked mostly to do weatherization projects, but saw there were greater needs.

Since that time, the program has grown to help address larger projects needed to help these homeowners stay in their homes. He said their goal is to “figure out how to allow them to live there safely and well.”

Donations from local industry help Project Comfort purchase the supplies that are needed to make the work happen.

However, it is the hard work and dedication of the volunteers that make this work happen.

I witnessed their commitment to helping their neighbors during my time on many of the project sites. Watching the volunteers as I shot their pictures was an inspiring experience.

There are many local houses that are in desperate need of repairs and many homeowners who are not in a position to see that they are made.

White said this year’s Project Comfort drew about 18 more volunteers, allowing them to tackle about five more homes. And he noted that throughout the year, the program helps pay for work at other homes where work is needed.

At one of the homes targeted Saturday, White said the homeowner often had to retreat to her bedroom because so much cold was getting into the house. But after repairs were made to doors and plastic was placed on windows, he said workers noticed “the warmth rising” in the house.

The work of these volunteers truly made a difference here and throughout the community. They are to be commended for giving their time and skills to improve the lives of their neighbors.

Jeff Moore is the publisher of The News-Democrat and The Trimble Banner and resides in Carrollton, Ky.