POWHATAN – Finding black mold in my apartment was one of the scariest sights I had ever seen.

Unbeknownst to me, the dishwasher had been leaking for some time and the water was coming through a counter wall that was backed on the other side by a bookshelf. One day, I had to move the bookcase for some reason and was horrified to discover black mold growing in the carpet underneath where it had stood and on the wall it had leaned against.

Fortunately, I was able to immediately call the apartment complex office, which sent a handyman to assess the problem and to begin mitigating the situation. Other than a completely ruined bookcase that immediately was tossed out and some insecurities about whether it was really gone, the situation wasn’t as horrible as it could have been.

I was reminded of that incident recently when I attended Habitat for Humanity – Powhatan’s annual meeting. Habitat is a great organization and I love what they do. Locally, the nonprofit has successfully built 13 homes and is currently working on the 14th house, which executive director Roseleen “Spud” Rick estimated should be done in the spring if the weather cooperates.

But as wonderful as their work building homes is, the main focus of the presentation about the accomplishments of this year was on the nonprofit’s critical repair program.

As she said at the meeting, “When we build a house we help one family. When we do critical repairs … we help many more families.”

Between July 1 and the annual meeting on Dec. 4, volunteers or contractors working with the nonprofit completed 21 critical repairs. The circumstances Spud described then and in a subsequent conversation were horrible.

There was a grandmother taking care of her grandchild whose roof deteriorated to the point that it started to collapse. The retiree could not afford to repair her roof, so Habitat paid for the repairs (the nonprofit doesn’t fix roofs or major electricity issues).

There was a woman with disabilities who only had one entrance into her house. Imagine how scared she must have been the day her front porch collapsed. She was living with a temporary fix of a piece of plywood over the hole until Habitat helped her. Worse, when volunteers got inside her house, they saw heating hazards and horrible weatherproofing issues that had to be addressed as well.

There was an elderly woman with disabilities who called Habitat because she had black mold in her bathroom. Habitat had visited because she had become disabled and needed a walk-in shower instead of a tub. A volunteer noticed the black mold she had been living with when he visited.

Just a few of the critical repair applications the nonprofit has recently received include a woman with a horribly drafty house who owes Dominion Energy more than $2,500; a woman whose heat pump has gone out even as the weather gets colder, and a woman with recurring septic system problems.

Spud said she currently has seven applications on her desk, and, of the people the organization helps, 75 percent of them are usually elderly, disabled, and live alone. And all of them live in Powhatan County. They are your neighbors.

Spud said something else at the meeting that stuck with me. She said that the need in Powhatan is great, but so too is the capacity of people willing to help. With that in mind, I will simply point out that Habitat needs volunteers. If you can swing a hammer, are willing to learn how to swing a hammer, or can just follow directions while you work on a team, they can use you. Between critical repairs and the home building projects, they can use you to help people in need make sure they have a safe place to live. It’s neighborliness at its best.

For more information on Habitat for Humanity – Powhatan, contact 804-594-7009 or visit https://www.habitatpowhatan.org.

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