Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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May 12, 2013

LaCasa's annual Help A House still a hit in Goshen

GOSHEN — The lunch break was winding down for the 11-member work crew. The painters were ready to resume painting.

Dorothy Herring had another word for it.

“It’s a godsend,” she said Saturday afternoon outside her home at 914 S. Thirteenth St., Goshen.

Herring’s residence was one of 18 different sites included in this year’s Help-A-House by LaCasa. During the annual project — Saturday marked the 23rd — volunteers assist LaCasa personnel in repairing the homes of low- to moderate-income homeowners in Goshen, and maintaining LaCasa rental properties. Organizers said around 345 workers were expected to show up for this year’s fix-up.

Herring was grateful for the helpers at her house, some with paint-splotched clothes as testament to their efforts.

“I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “I’m an 86-year-old lady, and I can’t do a lot of things anymore.”

Also appreciative was Beatrice Huffman, 116 S. 28th St. Volunteers arrived at her house a little after 8 a.m. to replace windows.

“They took all the windows out and now they’re getting them all back in,” Huffman said in her living room, men with caulking guns working just a few feet away outside one of those windows. “They’re doing a good job. They’re really friendly guys.”

New windows were also being planned at the home of Ed and Chery Weske, 119 Huron.

“We’re excited about it,” Chery Weske said earlier in the week. “It’ll certainly help....The house is pretty old, and it’s needed windows for awhile. (We’re) hoping that will help with the heating and the cooling.”

Help-A-House is a benefit for homeowners. It can also be a learning experience for the folks who help.

‘Get started’

Saturday’s Help-A-House was the sixth for Kate Irelan who, before she became LaCasa’s volunteer coordinator, was a volunteer herself.

Last week, she shared a memory of when she began with Help-A-House. Irelan was involved in a window replacement project, and she and the crew were told and shown how to do the job. She was wondering how much work the leaders would let unskilled laborers perform.

Then she found out.

“(The) crew leader handed me a crowbar and said, ‘Well, get started,’” Irelan recalled. By the end of day, she and her fellow volunteers knew how to replace windows.

Lindsay McMacken of Midland, Mich., has volunteered with Help-A-House for six or seven years. She’s picked up tools — and knowledge, too.

“I’ve done painting, I’ve done roofs, I’ve done windows throughout the years,” McMacken said outside the Huffman home Saturday. “You can learn a lot about carpentry, too, which is nice.” She also views Help-A-House as a way to see different parts of Goshen and get to know different people.

Across town at 119 N. Riverside Blvd., Jay Shroyer was spending his Saturday morning roofing. Before climbing back up, he talked about Help-A-House as a way to improve homes for people who wouldn’t be able to do so without a volunteer crew.

Shroyer was one of a dozen Northern Indiana Public Service Co. employees working at the Riverside home Saturday.

“We’ve been doing it for a couple of years,” he said of the NIPSCO volunteers. “We usually get a good turnout of folks to come out and help out.”

Charlie Books was set for his second year as a crew leader for Help-A-House.

“It’s neat seeing the volunteers come out and helping out with the community,” Books said last week. “Doing things that are out of the ordinary, that’s not in their normal everyday skill level. ...They’re coming out and they’re doing construction or landscaping or on a roof, stuff they don’t do every day.”

LaCasa of Goshen is a community housing development group, with programming designed to assist low- to moderate-income families.

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