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Home Repair Initiative Welcomed In Chicopee

A program that repairs homes so that low-income people can age in place has been welcomed to another city in western Massachusetts. 

George Kane, an elderly disabled veteran, watched from a wheelchair on his front porch as a half-dozen volunteers with saws and pruning shears cut down overgrown branches, shrubs, and bushes that had engulfed on all sides the home in Chicopee where he has lived for almost 30 years.

"Tremendous job," said Kane.

The yardwork is a prelude to extensive repairs that will be done later to the house including replacing the roof.    The goal of the rehabilitation work is to make it safe and affordable for Kane to stay in his own home for as long as his health allows.

"I like it here," said Kane. "I dont't want to go into the (nursing) home...terrible."

This is the first project in Chicopee organized by Revitalize Community Development Corporation.  Started in 1992, the organization has repaired over 900 homes, first in Springfield and then extending its initiatives to Holyoke a few years ago.

To kick off the arrival in Chicopee, there were plans to bring out hundreds of volunteers and skilled contractors to repair multiple homes in the Willimansett neighborhood, but that was scrapped because of the pandemic.

Mayor John Vieau came by to thank the volunteers from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts who were doing the yardwork. He said he looks forward to the relationship with Revitalize CDC.

"It is very successful," said Vieau. "It is a domino effect when  you see someone's property get cleaned up and maybe the neighbor feels the same way and I love how that affects the neighborhood and people in need."

Last year, Revitalize CDC was awarded $730,000 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for a program to rehab the homes of 51 eligible veterans.

 But the pandemic disrupted the application process, according to Revitalize CDC President Colleen  Loveless.

"We finally just got our first project approved," said Loveless. "We will get to people just not as quickly as we would have liked."

Unable to do any large scale projects with volunteers during the last few months, Loveless said the organization pivoted to a different plan.    

"We are still working with skilled contractors and they are going inside and outside homes to do work," said Loveless.  She stressed that  protocols are in place with health screenings required for both the contractors and the household residents.

Since May, Revitalize CDC staff members have been delivering food and cleaning supplies to the homes of people who tested positive for COVID-19.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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