Sunday, May 11, 2003

Helping hands repair homes

By Nicole Hamilton
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Saturday's rain and thunder didn't stop Jean Swartley from getting out to help others.

The South Cumminsville resident has been taking part in People Working Cooperatively's annual Repair Affair, which places more than 800 volunteers in the homes of the elderly and disabled to help with cleaning and repairs - for more than six years.

"It makes you feel that a lower-income person can get the help they need," said Swartley, who was working at the Oakley home of war veteran Alex Romanello.

Swartley and about seven others from two Oakley churches - the Oakley Mennonite Church and St. Cecelia's - were installing handrails on Romanello's front porch, along the basement stairs, attic stairs, and bathtub.

When another volunteer noticed the smell of natural gas coming from the basement, he called for a Cinergy repairman, who discovered a gas leak.

Romanello, who has a bad hip, estimates the volunteers did about 20 different tasks Saturday, including installing an electric unit in the kitchen, putting in a new window, putting deadbolts on the doors, and re-cementing the basement floor.

"They are just fantastic," he said, "And the jobs they do are fantastic, too. They really know what they're doing."

Jock Pitts, president of People Working Cooperatively, said, "We not only help people stay in their home, but we help to maintain the housing stock of the entire community."

Information: People Working Cooperatively, 513-351-7921

E-mail nhamilton@enquirer .com

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