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Austin, Garfield Park, North Lawndale

Austin Seniors Will Get A Helping Hand With Home Improvements Thanks To An Army Of 100 Volunteers Saturday

The repairs and improvements, which include installing smoke alarms, shower benches and handrails, will target 22 homes in North Austin — including 68-year-old Verta Hill's home.

Rebuilding Together volunteers pose for a photo,
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AUSTIN — Austin seniors will get a helping hand with home improvements from an army of 100 volunteers Saturday morning.

The goal of the day of service, led by Rebuilding Together Metro Chicago on national Make a Difference Day, aims to help make the seniors’ homes safer so they can maintain their independence. The work will target 22 homes in North Austin that are in need of small, low-cost home improvements that will make the homes safer and more accessible.

Improvements and repairs will include the installation of smoke alarms, installation of carbon monoxide detectors and fixing up handrails and grab bars.

The volunteers will also pitch in at the Vision on Menard community garden at the corner of Division Street and Menard Avenue. The garden is managed by a nearby homeowner who will put volunteers to work preparing the garden for the winter by tidying up, weeding, and spreading mulch.

The volunteers are completing the work as part of Rebuilding Together’s Safe at Home program, which aims to make minor improvements to homes to help prevent falls, accidents and fire hazards, empowering older adults to live independently in their homes for years to come.

“They’re simple improvements that make a huge difference in the lives of many of these homeowners,” said Wanda Ramirez, CEO of Rebuilding Together Metro Chicago.

Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) is expected to attend the volunteer day as well. Taliaferro worked with Rebuilding Together to help stage the event and spread the word to residents who interested in having the home improvements, Ramirez said.

Rebuilding Together has focused on Austin for the past four years in part because of the rich history the neighborhood has carried across generations of families who have maintained beautiful homes, Ramirez said. By improving homes in the area, Ramirez said it will be easier for older adults to pass along some of the neighborhood’s history to younger family members, residents and neighbors.

“We want to strengthen the neighborhood by helping homeowners living there,” Ramirez said.

One of the residents who will have some work done this weekend is Verta Hill, 68. Hill said the home modifications will make it a lot easier for her to get around the house, but she hadn’t considered that her home needed a few improvements until she fell and broke her hip.

Volunteers will be replacing two sections of handrails along the stairs inside her house. Hill will also be getting a bench and a grab bar put into her shower stall to protect her from slipping on the porcelain in her bathroom and two new smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

It is encouraging to know that there are people in the city willing to help people on the West Side. It shows that “people really do car about each other,” she said.

And with the beautiful architecture, old Victorians, and families who have called the neighborhood home for generations, she is happy people are recognizing the value of supporting Austin.

“Austin is a beautiful area. The old houses with good foundations — it just needs a little work,” Hill said.

Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.

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