Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Free Repairs Bring Tears of Joy to Needy

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Free Repairs Bring Tears of Joy to Needy

Article excerpt

Tears come to Lorraine Tooks' eyes when she looks at the new

roof and ceiling on the Jacksonville home she shares with her

visually impaired mother.

Tooks, 69, and Theressa Hall, 86, have been sleeping in the

living room of their Ella Street home since October when the

roof began collapsing, causing the upper portion of the house to

break apart and exposing the bedrooms to the skyline.

"By the time we got out, it looked like the whole house was

falling in," Tooks said. "We've both been bunking out here. Her

social worker wanted to move us out. [But] I couldn't afford to

pay for an apartment."

The women had no place to go. They even considered cutting back

on groceries to save money to fix the house. But thanks to Paint

The Town, the house is being repaired for free.

Paint The Town is a week-long annual event in Jacksonville

during which volunteers from businesses, agencies and non-profit

groups descend upon a neighborhood to repair houses for

low-income residents.

Jacksonville Housing Partnership, which repairs houses

throughout the year, sponsors the event that began Saturday in

the New Town neighborhood.

Many of the houses fall into disrepair due to old age and

maintenance work residents didn't get done because of a lack of

money, not knowing who to call or being too proud to ask for

help, said Carolyn Ettlinger, housing partnership executive

director.

Leaking plumbing, which can rot the floor boards, leads to more

home damage, said Greg Hawkins, rehabilitation specialist with

the housing partnership.

"When you go into these older houses, you basically start at

the floor and work your way up," he said.

Forty houses are being fixed in the project that includes 12

new roofs, 35 siding repairs or replacements, 22 bathroom

repairs and 40 paint jobs.

Jacksonville sailors helped by contributing 1,500 hours of

labor last month to prepare the homes -- replacing bad siding,

putting on new roofs and building wheelchair ramps.

"They basically are willing to do anything we ask them to.

That's what's great about them," said Bill Lazar, director of

the Housing Partnership's neighborhood housing rehab program. …

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