Back row, members of the Baldwin County Home Builders Charitable Foundation, from left: Chris Farlow, Brian Armstrong, Alex Cary, Jeff Frostholm, Nancy Grace, Marsha Jordan, and Repair Baldwin Coordinator Steve Riggs. In middle, homeowner Judith Gibson, EMI Executive Director Sally Deane, and Imogene Little. Front row, Eastern Shore Baptist Volunteers, from left: Ron Padgett, Lloyd Busbee, Rick Reymolds, Don Smith, and Wayne Sanders.
By Jessica Vaughn
SUMMERDALE – Before Ecumenical Ministries’ program, Repair Baldwin, came to her aide, local homeowner Judith Gibson didn’t have a safe, accessible way in and out of her home. Now, through the program, she has a ramp installed that will change her ability to get in and out of her home safely. The project was completed with the assistance of volunteers from Eastern Shore Baptist Church, and funding was provided by the Baldwin County Homebuilders Association & Foundation.
“Having a repair program that addresses some of the larger issues of home repairs is critical to the health of the county, because if you let these homes deteriorate then you have a problem, because where do these people go?” said Ecumenical Ministries Executive Director Sally Deane. “It’s always neat to be able to do something like this to save someone’s home. Another thing our program does that not all problems do is we do repairs on mobile homes, because we understand a lot are aging in the county, but they are people’s homes. If we can get in and do something to extend the life of them, then it’s wrong not to.”
Gibson’s home marks the 600th home repair project completed by Repair Baldwin in a little more than seven years. The program launched in 2014 through an Impact 100 grant, and since then the Ecumenical Ministries program has averaged 85 projects a year throughout the county. Of those repairs, over 200 have been roof repairs or replacements and approximately 136 have been ramp installations. The program also has done septic systems, plumbing, and electrical work.
“You’ve got elderly who are living on low income, and there’s not a lot of available senior housing,” said Deane. “They own this property, so the best thing to do is to keep it from deteriorating and getting to a state where it’s no longer habitable. We have addressed that throughout the county, and we’re excited to be able to do that, it’s a significant turn.”
Since beginning, $900,000 in funds have gone directly towards materials and labor for Repair Baldwin projects. Project Coordinator Steve Riggs oversees the program, including material purchases and contract and volunteer coordination. Ecumenical Ministries funds Riggs’ part time salary directly from its general operating budget, the only administrative and overhead expense.
A release from Ecumenical Ministries states, “The program requires homeowner participation in repairs. If it fits client budgets, a small percentage of the costs are recovered through no-interest promissory notes, giving clients a stake in the process. Their payments through the years have contributed nearly $90,000 back into the program.”
Large funders through the years include the Baldwin County Homebuilders Association & Foundation, Riviera Utilities, Baldwin EMC, and Ecumenical Ministries’ thrift store, Emmys. Significant financial assistance also comes from grants, churches and individuals.
There’s still more left to do, and more than one way to help. Deane says the program is always looking for skilled laborers, local contractors, and roofing companies that would like to get involved. Volunteers for ramp building projects are also welcome. Anyone who wishes to donate financially can do so through Ecumenical Ministries’ website, www.baldwinemi.org. By including a note that the funds should go towards Repair Baldwin, 100 percent will be used for future repair projects throughout the county.
Anyone in need of repairs can go to Repair Baldwin’s website, www.baldwinemi.org/repairbaldwin, to fill out an application online, or pick one up at either Ecumenical Ministries’ Fairhope (564 Fairhope Avenue) or Foley (102 West Spruce Avenue) office. For more information, call 251-928-3430.