February 27, 2013 - For Clarkston area Christmas In Action (CIA), a coalition of volunteers providing free home repairs to people in need, the hard part can be finding out who needs them the most.
"We find a lot of homeowners who need help don't want others to know about it – they're embarrassed," said Mike Gemborys, who volunteers for CIA with his wife, Joanne.
"And they can be fearful of allowing strangers in their home," Joanne said.
Volunteers from throughout the community gather on the last Saturday in April every year to provide indoor and outdoor repairs, cleaning, and other services to seniors, low-income, or people with handicaps.
They work with recipients in Independence and Springfield townships to fill out an application and develop a wish list of repairs and services.
Previous projects include major plumbing and electrical repairs, repairing holes in floors, rebuilding ceilings, painting, yard work, tree trimming, new handicap ramps, deck repairs, and repairing doors, fences and gates.
"We'll install safety items like a seat in the tub," Mike said.
Those who need the most help are often isolated from family and friends, which also makes it difficult to find out about them.
"For those most in need, it may have been 20-30 years since any maintenance was done on the home," Mike said. "It snowballs and becomes overwhelming."
In those cases, neighbors or those who work nearby may be the only ones who can let CIA know someone needs assistance.
"If you know someone or live next door to someone who really needs helps, let us know and we'll approach them," he said.
CIA Board members work with local senior centers to approach those in need to determine what help can be provided.
"We tell them who we are and what we do," Mike said. "Our approach is to let them know we're only here to help, not to judge. We work to build a level of trust where they get comfortable with us. It can take several meetings."
"We want to make their homes safe and comfortable," Joanne said. "They're always very thankful at the end."
Deadline to request assistance is April 1. For more information, call Diane Midgley 248-625-6869 or 248-613-1232.
Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.