Good Neighbors on target to service 80 homes in 2012

Ibeth Leon talks with Good Neighbors executive director Rob Ellis about the work done on her Kennett family's house last summer during the organization's annul fund raiser.

Despite 20 years worth of selfless work for the benefit of others, there is still a significant need for organizations like Good Neighbors.

Last Thursday night, at their annual meeting and fund-raiser at the Mendenhall Inn, administrators from the Kennett-based non-profit home repair ministry celebrated their efforts in 2012, and discussed the future without founder Jay Malthaner at the reins.

Board president R.J. Scaggs called Malthaner, now 68, a 'true American hero,' and praised his ability to get the home repair ministry off the ground and still running 20 years later.

'His determination and dedication made this a reality,' Scaggs said. 'And now, after 20 long years, he's reached a long earned rest. Although he'll still likely climb up some ladders and install new windows if we need him.'

He added that Malthaner is more comfortable in the field wearing a tool belt than he is sitting behind a desk, and that he felt 'out of touch' without a tool in his hand.

Malthaner officially retired from his behind the scenes duties at Good Neighbors on Aug. 1.

Scaggs said that one of Good Neighbors' goals is to continue to identify eligible homeowners whose homes need to be safer, dryer and healthier via repairs beyond their financial scope.

'We have no intention of doing anything other than keeping this thing going full force,' Scaggs said.

The organization is on target to having addressed 80 houses in 2012, roughly 11,000 volunteer hours according to executive director Rob Ellis.

Even with all that work, he added, there are still people not being reached by the organization – a problem he hopes to address in the coming year.

'Our goal is to eliminate substandard housing throughout our area,' Ellis said. 'That's a big task.'

The organization also runs an annual youth camp, giving area teens a chance to spend a week selflessly helping another person.

This year, the camp focused on five homes between Oxford and Kennett Square, with 98 adult and 42 youth volunteers working on projects like digging a trench for sewer lines and stripping years of old paint to make way for a fresh coat.

'Twenty of those youths were coming back for at least their second year, and six of them are four-year veterans of the youth camp,' Ellis said. 'It says a lot about the integrity of the kids; it also says a lot about the program.'

Ellis said that while their financial situation is acceptable, there is an effort to broaden their fund raising efforts in 2012.

'We are poised for growth,' he said. 'We are run by a bunch of former DuPont executives, so we will make budget.'

They will also step up their efforts to identify qualified homeowners who are in serious need of their work.

The organization recently received a Philadelphia Foundation grant, which Ellis said was used to hire consultants to guide them towards best management practices for non-profits and improve their organizational effectiveness.

'We're not done yet, but we're on our way,' he said.

Ellis said that, with some board and committee members having moved on to other fields, there are several openings for members of the public with a feel for helping others.

'We may be talking to you if you have board experience, if you have experience in committee work,' he said.

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