New Habitat Initiative

A new initiative is helping provide needed repairs for some houses in Lauderdale County. It's called, 'A Brush With Kindness.' Sponsored by Habitat for Humanity, the initiative provides minor repairs and the painting of houses for the elderly, disabled and veterans.

For 50 years Alice Robertson has lived on 33rd. Avenue in Meridian. Her house is the first for this year to be repaired as part of the initiative.

'This means a whole lot to me because when you get on up in age, it's hard to get someone to do something for you,' says Robertson.

'We've begun to get more calls in our office actually for help with repairs for homes than for home ownership,' says Fonda Rush, who is the executive director for Habitat for Humanity in Lauderdale County. She says building a house cost the agency anywhere from $68,000 to $70,000. As for repairs that will be done to some houses, Rush says her agency will follow the national model and pay on average, up to $5,000 per house.

'We'll have budget limits and we can't go in and do $70,000 repair work. This is not a remodeling project; it's repairs.'

As part of the effort, the local Habitat for Humanity will work with Multi-County Community Service Agency.

'A lot of times when officials from MCCSA go out to look at the homes to see if they qualify for the energy efficiency, then there are repairs that need to be done to the home and their program is not set up for repairs. So, we're looking at doing the repair work and Multi-County can do the energy efficiency,' says Rush.

Since being established in 1989, the Habitat for Humanity office in Meridian has had a $4 million dollar impact on Lauderdale County. This is due to: supervisors and specialists such as plumbers and electricians being hired for the jobs; supplies being bought locally; plus, the fact that the projects have gotten property back on tax rolls.

Although the agency's new initiative will not help to get property back on tax rolls, Rush says it will help to increase the property's value, and the owner's quality of life.

The 'A Brush of Kindness' initiative started about three years ago nationally. Last year a few houses were repaired as part of it in Lauderdale County; 2013 will mark the first year for the initiative to kick off in earnest locally.