As Good Neighbors Inc. has shown time and time again, you don’t need a television show such as “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” to make a difference in someone’s life.
Instead, it just takes some hard work, dedicated volunteers of all ages and some faith.
Since its inception in 1992, Good Neighbors has helped repair and revamp over 250 homes in the southern Chester County region, and this summer was no different.
“Once a year, we do this youth camp and work with multiple church groups and The Garage in Kennett and West Grove,” said Tom MacAuley, field project manager for Good Neighbors. “We have a scope of work (for each house). The kids do a good job and we try to have fun, too.”
Four homes spread through the lower portion of the county - Kennett Square, West Grove, Nottingham and Avondale - received the loving care from Good Neighbors to make each home “warmer, safer, drier and healthier.”
“We’re looking for major improvements to make somebody’s life better,” MacAuley said.
In order to be considered for help from Good Neighbors, a household has to meet three criterias:
The household income must not exceed the Federal and County guidelines for low income.
You have to have verification of home ownership.
All property taxes have to be current.
Once accepted, a team comes out a week before the youth camps begin to get some prep work done, and then the youth take over.
Examples of some of the work done on two of the houses this summer were modifying a bathroom to be handicap accessible, repairing a chimney teetering on the edge of collapse, painting rooms and exteriors, installaing ceiling fans and replacing a garage roof.
It sounds like work for adults, but surprisingly, a lot of it is done by teenagers.
“What happens is they come back year after year,” MacAuley said. “There’s some mentoring going on, even between the kids. They’ve learned how to do (these home repairs).”
But not all of the workers are under 20 as some of the volunteers range up to the late 70s.
Good Neighbors is aware that not everything they need to do can be done by them alone, which is where the professionals step in, such as an electrician.
For an entire week, a person’s home is pretty much invaded by volunteers - inside and out - as they are let loose to work. If everything can’t be accomplished in the week, it is finished over the course of the next month or two by returning volunteers.
“It’s an entire week just focused on having the kids have this opportunity to serve and helping people that need - can’t afford and can’t do this amount of work themselves,” said Jay Mathaner, the founder of Good Neighbors.
During the week, everyone stays over at the Avondale Presbyterian Church and showers are provided by the YMCA in Kennett Square and Jennersville. At the end of the week, there is a huge dinner for all the volunteers of all four houses, included the homeowners.
“It makes helping other people real,” said Jan Berry Schroeder, director of youth formation at the Episcopal Church of the Advent. “We’re focusing on the issues and making the homes livable.”