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Lending a helping hand; CHIP entering its fifth year of community assistance

The Community Home Improvement Project (CHIP) is hoping to hear from homeowners in need of assistance with home improvement.

Founded as a joint effort of Habitat for Humanity, the Housing and Redevelopment Authority, and the Vision 2020 Community Pride and Spirit Committee, CHIP is entering its fifth season. It’s on track to help 100 families since its inception.

“There are maybe a half dozen requests this year so far,” said Geoff Smith, a member of the Vision 2020 Community Pride and Spirit Committee. “We’re planning to have applications available around town.”

CHIP provides home improvement aid to the disabled, the elderly and those unable to afford the cost of home repair. Many of the materials used are donated and volunteers provide the labor in most cases.

Those materials that are not donated are often sold to CHIP at discounted rates. Professional workers are called in for repairs, like roofing, that may be dangerous for volunteers.

Although CHIP wants to help as many people as possible, not everyone who applies for assistance will get it.

Meridee Ofstedahl paints a home with the Community Home Improvement Project. Herald file photos

“We will sometimes get applications from people who are not a good fit because the work is too complicated for volunteers or the financial situation is such that they can afford to pay a professional.”

“We do not want to compete with businesses that do this kind of work,” he added.

The Housing and Redevelopment Authority also offers small, low interest loans to help pay for repairs. HRA loans typically cover work like roof repair, hot water heaters and furnaces.

Last year, CHIP assisted over 30 families in the Austin area with repairs. 260 volunteers put in over 1,300 hours worth of work. The Minnesota Habitat for Humanity held its annual convention in Austin last year to see the work done by CHIP.

According to Smith, CHIP has helped perform over $100,000 in repairs since 2013.

This year, CHIP has a goal of helping at least 25 households with necessary repairs. Although CHIP currently does only exterior work, Smith indicated the possibility of including some interior work as Habitat for Humanity expands what it capable of doing,

As with many non-profits, CHIP is always seeking new volunteers.

“It’s been very touching and heartwarming to see the community embrace the concept and come forward to volunteer in such numbers,” Smith said.

To find out more information about CHIP, visit the Habitat for Humanity Freeborn/Mower website at www.habitatfreebornmower.org.