May 02, 2012 - Few welcome a visit from the CIA, but Eleanor Hamilton was glad to have them stop by on Saturday, April 28.
Hard at work painting Eleanor Hamilton’s Leonard home are Patty Boase and Carol Hazy. You missed a spot, ladies – just kidding. Photo by Lance Farrell (click for larger version)
Christmas in Action (CIA) is a nonprofit organization that provides "repairs that enable low-income seniors to safely remain in their homes." In concert with local businesses, dozens of CIA volunteers convene on the last Saturday of April to repair the homes of senior citizens.
According to the CIA website, "one in four of Elderly Americans cannot afford the basic human necessities after paying housing costs." By providing free home repairs, CIA enables seniors to stay in their own homes, and thus "restores dignity and quality of life to hundreds of homeowners." Tree trimming, trash removal, door and window replacement, painting, plumbing--no job seems too big for the CIA.
Now in their 17th year, the CIA council of NE Oakland County meets year round for monthly planning sessions, and selects homes for the late April work day. To qualify, residents must be at least 60 years of age, have a yearly income of less than $20,000, and be up-to-date on all home payments.
Mrs. Hamilton initially approached CIA council member Earl Caron at the Strawberry Festival last July about merely fixing her front door. Instead, she was met with a crew of about fifty people who transformed her entire property in a single day.
On a promising day in late April, Hamilton's home buzzed with activity as she looked on from the comfort of her recliner. Looking up from her knitting, through the front window she could see an old Harmony archtop guitar laid on the driveway, while Patty Boase and Carol Hazy took paint brushes to the green garage door. A mound of scrap metal rose next to the front porch, while another volunteer spray-painted a pump handle a glossy black. A dozen suitcases stood at attention, lined up like a squadron awaiting flight instructions.
Two youngsters worked in tandem with shovels and transplanted lilies next to the newly cropped shrubs. In the back yard, volunteers busted up an old slab, huffing as they pitched concrete chunks into the bucket of a front-end loader. Still others were inside the home, replacing bathroom fixtures, window blinds and sashes.
Caron was pleased at the large turnout of volunteers. He met with Oxford High School football coach, Bud Rowley, and told him "I need some muscle," and "asked for maybe 10 players," he recalled. Caron was pleasantly surprised Saturday morning when Rowley stopped by with about 20-30 football players.
The OHS musclemen made short order of the basement, Caron said. They snaked a chain of athletes from the basement to the first floor and quickly transferred unwanted items from the basement to two dumpsters waiting outside.
Homeowner Mrs. Hamilton spoke highly of the footballers, and thought it was "marvellous that they took part." The young men "did a lot of good," she said without hesitation.
Volunteer Kevin Mitchell praised the football team, and said they "were awesome! They did very hard work, did it excellently, and were very friendly."
Many local businesses lent a hand Saturday as well. Breakfast was provided by Chardonnay, lunch was donated by Waterstone's Independence Village, and dinner was given by Jet's Pizzeria. Addison Township provided coffee and a dumpster, while Valera's convenience store on Rochester Rd. supplied ice and coffee.
Mrs. Hamilton was very appreciative of the helping hand. "It makes me feel good to see that people care. I thought I'd have to go into a senior -citizens home, but now I will get to stay (here) much longer." She expects to be able to "get around better" now that the CIA has fixed her front porch.
She built the house with her husband, Charles, the man she said she knew she would marry from the moment she saw him at age 16 in 1936. The couple built the home themselves, working so hard that she had arms that "looked like Popeye when (she) got done," Eleanor said with a laugh. Now 92, Eleanor does what she can to tend the homestead on her own.
CIA House Captain Greg Brown liked the idea of local citizens helping members of their own communities. Since there is no senior center in Addison Township, this service is greatly needed, council member Earl Caron added. Volunteer coordinator Bob Riley said that the workday events are positive for all concerned. He commented on the goodness of many in the community and the supplement to governmental programs provided by organizations like CIA. There are "more people willing to volunteer than are being utilized," he said.
If you'd like to help out, or are interested in nominating a home for free repair, contact council chair Bob Riley at email@example.com or visit the CIA website at www.ciaoaklandcounty.org.
Maybe you too can have a visit from the CIA!