The teams worked on homes of the elderly, disabled over 60 years of age, all of low income. The team members painted houses, built handicap ramps, porches, placed step rails, and washed down houses.
Repair Affair was started eight years ago.
“One of the highlights this year is that Mission of Hope, from Knoxville, Tennessee, is coming, and they are bringing 45 people,” Cornelius said. “They purchased their own material. Emmette Thompson is their director. He got on the radio last week and received $1,100 donations in a half an hour and purchased their own materials and delivered them here for free and is bringing an additional check for Repair Affair for this year,” he added.
Mission of Hope is an Appalachian Relief ministry. “We work through elementary schools and in Bell County we do a back-to-school program where we give every child a brand new backpack and school supplies at three schools here. They are schools with the highest percentages of disadvantaged students: Yellow Creek, Right Fork, and Bell Central. We do a program at Christmas where we take children to shop and give them clothing and food boxes for their family,” stated Thompson. He said he appreciated the way Repair Affair handles home repairs for low-income elderly residents. “We have volunteers that are looking for such type of work to plug into. We not only help to volunteer, we provide money to buy supplies. We gave them a truckload of materials from a home and garden show donation that we received earlier this winter,” he said.
Mission of Hope began in the fall of 1996 when Bill Williams of WBIR Channel 10 in Knoxville did a story of needs in former coal mine communities. Julie Holland stepped up and put together a Christmas collection. From that first event Mission of Hope distributed gifts to 150 kids in one school. The organization now goes to 24 schools and about 41 visitor centers throughout Southeast Kentucky and East Tennessee area, according to Thompson.
“This is our fourth year with Repair Affair, and every year we have brought a bigger team and are just thrilled that our folks in Knoxville deem it worthy of their support and we really appreciate what Bell-Whitley does to help their community here and in Whitley County as well,” Thompson said.
The repair teams spread out to cover all of Bell County with the sixteen projects. The teams were mixed with members coming from all parts of the county. “It is a good way for all of the county to work together,” Cornelius stated.
Repair Affair started from Bell-Whitley Community Action Agency with a small grant from Kentucky Housing Corporation and from then on the group began solicitation of area businesses to fund the project, as it is a community-wide effort. “It has become its own entity. Every year we start sending out letters to get people helping us and they are really good at donating and they know the funds are rolled right back into the community,” stated Cornelius.
The project also includes Whitley County. Work on homes in that area will begin June third. Cornelius said as soon as the Bell County project is finished he will begin looking at homes in Whitley County to repair.
C.J. Harte is a Correspondent for The Daily News. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.