SELF Builds Hope in Homeowners
The success of any construction project is based upon the strength of its supports. One local nonprofit is in the business of building pillars of support around low-income families in Butler County. By partnering with volunteers to make home repairs, Supports to Encourage Low-Income Families (SELF) builds up economically challenged families to withstand the storms of life.
Neighbors Who Care: Home Repair is one of seven programs led by SELF, which is headquartered in Hamilton and has satellite offices in West Chester and Middletown. Assisting low-income county residents with everything from ramps and mobility aids to safe porches and properly functioning gutters, this organization gives back to our community by building hope in homeowners.
“We are providing the tools and the techniques and supports to help people leave their low-income or poverty status,” says Jeffrey Diver, Executive Director of SELF.
“We focus on owner-occupied homes—helping people age in place in their own homes. They may have building code violations or safety issues. A lot of the folks who we are helping with Neighbors Who Care: Home Repair are senior citizens, people with disabilities and families with young children,” explains Diver.
Greg Sargent, Housing Coordinator for SELF, assesses clients’ needs and leads volunteers to help make necessary repairs.
“Last year, we had 1,428 volunteers put in 22,587 volunteer hours on 108 homes,” Sargent shares.
Sargent and other colleagues provide on-the-job training at each work site. While any construction experience is welcome, no experience is necessary to be a SELF volunteer.
“We try to match the work to the skill level of the volunteers,” Sargent says.
Volunteers come to SELF as individuals or groups of various sizes and ages from churches, corporations and other organizations near and far.
Since 2010, SELF partners with Group Cares, a ministry organization based out of Colorado. In one Blitz Week each summer, more than 400 volunteers from around the country make the repairs needed across Butler County.
SELF hopes to grow the program to meet the growing needs in our aging county.
Sargent explains, “We get roughly five times as many applications as we can fulfill. We hope to increase the number of homes we can do each year. Our goal for 2017 is 130 homes.”
Neighbors Who Care: Home Repair is volunteer-driven. Under the leadership of SELF’s staff, volunteers work to change the lives of low-income Butler County residents, and may find their own lives changed as well.
“It is one of our goals to get individuals out into the community to see what is going on and to make a difference,” says Rebecca Palen, SELF Community Relations Director. “Our volunteers feel like they are a part of something bigger.”
“Volunteer groups often develop a bond with the homeowner who they are working with. It’s really heartening to see the clients treat the workers like an extension of their family,” Diver adds.