CHIP blitz helping out Austin homeowners

Published 7:36 am Sunday, June 28, 2015

Community Home Improvement Program volunteers pose for a photo while doing work during its first blitz week of 2015. Photo provided by Laura Helle

Community Home Improvement Program volunteers pose for a photo while doing work during its first blitz week of 2015. Photo provided by Laura Helle

The Community Home Improvement Program (CHIP) completed it’s first blitz week of 2015 on Saturday. According to program coordinator Brent Johnson of Freeborn Mower Habitat for Humanity, 11 homes were served during the week. Groups of volunteers from Rotary, Rotaract, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church and youth group Summer Grunge, Hormel Foods work groups and Vision 2020 Community Pride and Spirit all put in hours.

Most of the activity of blitz week was painting — homes and garages — and removing overgrown brush. This type of activity is ideal for volunteers and what is a daunting task for an individual home owner becomes ‘light work’ with ‘many hands’ pitching in.

I was honored to help out one home owner on Thursday evening. My daughter and I helped remove overgrown hedge in the back yard as well as trim bushes and trees. My daughter’s favorite part was petting another volunteer’s dog and finding two earth worms to play with. Our job was to pick up and remove brush and load it on a trailer. More skilled volunteers were wielding hedge trimmers and even a chain saw to trim away overgrowth. It was very rewarding to see the difference that we made together in one evening.

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The homeowner we worked for is 89 years old. Her son lived with her and took care of much of the outdoor maintenance until he died of cancer in 2011. Her closest family member lives in Milwaukee.

CHIP was created in 2013 by Vision 2020 Community Pride and Spirit, Freeborn Mower Habitat for Humanity and the Austin Housing and Redevelopment Authority. Funding and in-kind do- nations are provided by the Hormel Foundation, United Way of Mower County, Freeborn-Mower Habitat for Humanity and local businesses. The goals of CHIP are to help homeowners preserve their homes by intervening with needed maintenance, to improve the overall appearance of homes in Austin and to build connections among residents.

CHIP will conduct another blitz week on October 5-10, 2015, culminating with United Way of Mower County’s Day of Caring on Saturday, October 10. Mark your calendar now and plan to volunteer with family, friends or co-workers.

If you are a homeowner in need, it is not too late to apply for CHIP assistance. Homeowners are considered for external repairs including peeling paint, leaky roof, overgrown landscaping, concrete work and other needs. Based on family need and resources, CHIP offers low-interest loans to pay for materials. In some cases, home owners with very low incomes receive materials as a grant.

To apply or to volunteer, contact Freeborn Mower Habitat for Humanity Community Development Director Brent Johnson at 507-433-1349.