By Amy Falkofske
Project Mend-A-House, in its 35th year of helping residents in Prince William, “was founded on the basic principles of providing services to people who were at a point in their lives where they’re just not able to afford to maintain the kind of quality of life that they so richly deserve,” said Kevin Williams, PMAH’s Chairman of the Board. PMAH is a volunteer effort that helps individuals who do not have the ability to get around their homes comfortably and safely because they are either elderly and on a fixed income or disabled.
Identifying Those in Need
An individual in need of services must follow a registration process, fill out an application and be vetted by PMAH’s program managers to determine the individual’s eligibility based on a certain set of criteria. Once an individual qualifies for services, PMAH goes out to meet the homeowner to discuss and assess the project. Then the exciting work of project scheduling happens, and a pool of incredible volunteers comes together to complete it.
Helping the Disabled
One of PMAH’s recent projects was installing a ramp at the home of a disabled veteran who is unable to travel from his front door to his vehicle to get to his various appointments. It was taking him up to an hour to get out of his house and into his van. Now, “he can just literally open his door and roll out onto the ramp and down to the van and hop right in and go,” said Williams.
Another recent project involved helping an individual who is bedridden and unable to get down the concrete steps to his house. This was especially problematic when he needed to be rushed to the hospital and the first responders could not get him out of the house. PMAH teamed up with Clarke Construction
and Covenant Presbyterian Church and installed an electric elevator at his home. Now, he can roll his wheelchair into the elevator and hit the button. The elevator drops him down about 4 feet to ground level where there is a concrete pad with a mini incline that he can roll up and down to get in and out of his
A Successful Year, Despite the Pandemic
When asked what he thought PMAH’s successes are, Williams said it was their ability to keep going despite the pandemic. Even though social distancing did not allow them to enter homes, they were able to get projects done that could be done outside.
Williams credits PMAH’s staff and volunteers and their tenacity and “willingness to continue to remain vigilant and doing what they needed to do to provide services.”
“To be able to move through a pandemic and serve upwards of 100 clients with an all-volunteer team, is pretty incredible,” said Williams.
Engaging Volunteers and the Youth in Our Community
PMAH relies heavily on volunteers. Williams said that the organization has lots of seniors in the community with construction and handyman experience who enjoy helping, because it provides them outlets when they are unable to give financially. Williams also noted their push to involve youth in the Prince William area, aged 14 and over, who have a community service requirement to graduate. (These projects are all done on the outside of homes with social distancing and temperature checks so as not to expose anyone to the virus.)
“It teaches them the responsibility to give back and that the world is not here for them to take, take, take. At some point, they need to learn how to give. As they begin to age and get older, they may well find themselves in the same situation. It’s important to learn at an early age how important it is to give back in the areas where you live,” said Williams.
How to Become a PMAH Volunteer
If you are interested in volunteering for PMAH, call 703-792-7663 or email email@example.com. All potential volunteers are screened and have to fill out a form agreeing to COVID protocols. They also must follow the rules of the project manager from the start of the project until the end.
How Businesses and Organizations Can Partner with PMAH
PMAH has many public/private partnerships with companies in the Prince William area including construction, HVAC and plumbing companies, as well as companies that donate items like appliances and water heaters.
PMAH is in a long-standing partnership with the Potomac Health Foundation and has recently teamed up with the Prince William Association of Realtors. If you are an organization or business that wants to work with PMAH, reach out to CEO John Swirchak. PMAH also welcomes financial donations from businesses, organizations and individuals. “No amount is too small,” said Williams.
Williams said that more and more, PMAH is rendering services through experienced volunteers and in kind donations from professional contractors and the trade unions IBEW, AFL-CIO and Baltimore/DC Trades. These professionals can do carpentry, electrical, HVAC and plumbing work “better, faster, safer and
cheaper.” This is shifting the paradigm away from a core of volunteer handymen to a cadre of professional tradesmen, a fact that Williams says helps the organization get grants and financial support due to the projects being run more efficiently.
Amy Falkofske is a freelance writer and photographer. She has a Master’s degree in Film-TV with a concentration in screenwriting. She lives in Bristow with her husband, two boys and two Beagle dogs