Take a moment to let the statistics that we shared last month sink in for you:
In 11 years, the Paducah Alliance of Neighbors has helped nearly 300 people in our community with life-changing repairs and renovations to their homes.
In their Repair Affair program, nearly 200 families have received desperately needed repairs to their homes. The group’s Emergency Repair Assistance program has made 75 homes safe and habitable again. In the FAN Assist Fountain Avenue program alone, six low-income homeowners benefited from major renovations to their homes, and dreams of revitalization efforts for the whole Fountain Avenue neighborhood have been realized, in part, by those projects.
In last month’s edition, we joined with our local financial institutions CFSB and FNB Bank to introduce you to the Paducah Alliance of Neighbors (formerly Midtown Alliance of Neighbors), their director Sharon Poat, and many of the dedicated and committed volunteers and leaders that have worked to make their many projects possible. We shared their heritage and the steps that they have taken, year after year, to rise up to meet the most urgent housing needs in our community. And we shared their vision for Paducah’s housing future and their decision to provide newly constructed homes for low-income neighbors so that families could finally achieve the American Dream of home ownership.
This month, we’d like you to consider one more thing: each of those nearly 300 people that have been helped by the Paducah Alliance of Neighbors is someone you might know. Each person, family and home changed has a story. Maybe the home has been in a family for generations, providing a safe haven and shelter for children and grandchildren. The families and neighbors could be Paducah natives, or those who moved here, or even returned here after a time away. They are young or elderly and represent the diversity that makes our community strong. They worship next to us in local churches and shop alongside us at markets.
But most importantly, they share in our collective notion that what makes our community great is the kindness we show to one another.
Over the following months, we’d like to spend some time visiting with some of the people whose lives have been impacted by the kindness and charity of the Paducah Alliance of Neighbors.
All of the nearly 300 may be unique, but they all can agree on one similarity – their lives have been truly blessed by the Paducah Alliance of Neighbors.
“It’s Made a Lot of Difference…”
For thirty years, Donna Smith has lived in her Paducah home, located near Fountain Avenue. She’s loved the aging home, but it caused quite a lot of stress for her.
“My basement stayed flooded all the time,” she says. “Instead of walking down basement stairs, I had to lift a heavy, wooden door from the floor that weighed hundreds of pounds.”
Donna’s home also needed a new roof to stop the constant leaks she suffered, which had caused water damage to the roof of her front porch. The sidewalks and front steps she used to access her home were damaged and unsafe. Termite damage was causing some floor joists to sag and give way, and her kitchen cabinets were not connected to the walls, which allowed air to pour in around them. On top of all those issues, Donna’s HVAC system was failing.
“It was just a disaster to me,” she recalls. “There was nothing I could do. I’m just a single woman, and I’m getting up in age, and I can’t do what I used to do. I really didn’t have any plans because I didn’t know where to start.”
When the Paducah Alliance of Neighbors helped her brother out with repairs to his home, Donna saw an opportunity and applied for the program herself.
“I knew that I wanted mine done too.”
Seeing the level of need in Donna’s home, Sharon and Paducah Alliance of Neighbors knew that the group’s Fountain Avenue Assist program could help alleviate most of her pressing concerns.
“For Donna’s home, our primary concern was to address the safety issues, like her HVAC, her leaking roof and basement, the entries to her home, access to her basement, and her failing floor joists,” says Sharon. “Then we also wanted to ensure that we were addressing several areas where her home was drafty and not as energy efficient as it should have been. We were fortunate that while we were there, we also could help provide her some new usable space in her pantry and bedroom and also install new flooring. In all, the project was able to fully rehabilitate her home, make it safe and ensure that Donna can live there comfortably for as long as she is able.”
The work was all completed in 2014-2015 with the help of many local contractors and volunteers. Since then, she has been able to enjoy her home without the burden of those old issues.
“It’s been wonderful,” she says. “It’s made it warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer. My basement doesn’t flood anymore.”
She says one aspect of the project stands out to her now as having the most impact on her life.
“I no longer have the big wooden door I have to lift up,” she says. “I just have to walk down a few stairs now, and I’m in my basement.”
“It’s made a lot of difference.”
Donna calls the Paducah Alliance of Neighbors a “blessing in disguise,” and she is still grateful every day for the help that came along with Sharon and the group.
“It’s something that I could have never done on my own,” she says.
“I could never repay what they have done. In the world we are living in today, you don’t find very many people that will help a stranger, and that meant the world to me.”
“The People Who Did My House Made Me Look Good”
Ralph Jackson knows a lot about kerosene heaters.
“You have to make sure you have a good ventilation, so I kept mine by the door,” he says. “It keeps you from getting sick from kerosene.” While he tells you about making sure you have a good wick and how sometimes you have to clean your ceiling where the kerosene makes it black, it’s clear that he’s had some experience.
“You have to be careful with them,” he says. “You can get poisoned from the unit.”
Ralph got his years of kerosene maintenance experience because it was the only heat source that he and his wife Mary had in the Paducah home that he’d inherited from his father. In the summer, Ralph and Mary kept cool with used window units.
“Most of them I ever had were used, and they would last, at best, a year,” he says. “Eventually, I was just using a fan. With our weather conditions, that was tough.”
“You get used to it, but it was tough.”
When a friend who volunteered with the Paducah Alliance of Neighbors told Ralph about the program, he had no way to anticipate the level of help they would provide for his generational family home.
The group’s Emergency Repair Assistance program provided the Jacksons a new HVAC system that utilized their existing ductwork.
“I didn’t expect them to put in a nice Carrier unit,” Ralph recalls of the 2018 project. “That unit keeps me cool.”
With the heating and cooling needs of the home addressed, Sharon saw another need.
“The house was painted a long time ago, but it wasn’t a good job, and it was peeling off,” Ralph says.
The Paducah Alliance of Neighbors was able to call upon their extensive list of volunteers to restore the exterior of the Jacksons’ home. Groups of local do-gooders from Twelve Oaks Baptist Church’s Youth and Adult Groups, Lifeline Ministries, Four Rivers Nuclear Partnership, and McCracken County High School all pitched into prep and paint the home.
For Sharon, the work that volunteers can do for a home is a very encouraging part of her work.
“It’s always so rewarding to see the changes that a motivated group from a church, school, or business can make in a day,” she says.
“An exterior paint job takes several days and several teams–prepping, then priming, then painting until it’s all done. I always feel really blessed to be able to see the whole process and the finished product and the appreciation of homeowners like the Jacksons.”
Rob Hall, Paducah Alliance of Neighbors Project Manager, found the participation of one of the volunteer groups especially noteworthy.
“The volunteer group that wrapped up the painting at the Jacksons’ house was a group of McCracken County High School seniors that decided to spend their last day of high school out in the community helping a family in need rather than sitting at school,” he says.
“That was pretty special.”
For Ralph and Mary, the Paducah Alliance of Neighbors and their volunteers answered a prayer and a need with an abundance of blessings.
“I didn’t expect nothing like that,” Ralph says. “I didn’t expect that much.”
“They did a very professional job. It was nice, and it made my house look new. That paint will outlive me.”
“I couldn’t afford it, so I was super grateful.”
Ralph says now that the Alliance’s work on his home is complete, he has some plans of his own.
“The people who did my house made me look good,” he says. “My next project is to get the inside looking like the outside.”
“I Literally Cried Tears of Joy”
While the Paducah Alliance of Neighbors team toiled away at the home of Linette Seals, its owner of 22 years stayed away with family. So, she didn’t know that tasked with repairing floor joists in one area of the home; the group had found holes in the flooring under her major appliances in other areas.
“I didn’t even know a lot of the damage that was there,” she says.
She also didn’t know that while work was being done to alleviate major problems in her bathroom plumbing, crews also repaired an exterior faucet.
“When they started working, they found stuff that was wrong, and they fixed it,” she says.
Just in time for the Christmas holiday, Linette’s renovation work was completed, and she was able to return to her home on December 23.
“I was still doing some final touchups when she came home with a houseplant in her hands and tears in her eyes,” Sharon says.
“When I saw what they’d done, I literally cried tears of joy,” Linette says.
“They really surprised me when I came in, and they’d done the kitchen floor. It was beautiful now.”
“It was a great Christmas present for us both,” Sharon says.
Ask anyone involved, and they’ll tell you that there were many blessings in Linette’s project.
According to Rob Hall, Paducah Alliance of Neighbors Projects Manager, one of the biggest was the volunteers who were able to help grace Linette’s home with their work.
“Coming out of the COVID pandemic, we were really thankful to have the help of men from Lifeline Ministries volunteering on this project,” he says. “It’s great to see them put their struggles aside and work as a team to bring happiness to a homeowner. It’s nice to see guys with more skills helping and teaching others and to see them motivating and joking with each other.”
For Sharon, the blessing she received from seeing Linette’s joy was a reminder that all projects can have a significant impact on the neighbors that her group helps.
“We weren’t able to address every repair need that Linette had, but we were able to take care of a really big one and to lift that burden of worry for her,” she says.
And for Linette, she has a tremendous amount of gratitude for those who carried out her Christmas miracle.
“I can go in my bathroom now and not have to worry about trying to get the sink unstopped, or my closet smelling like mildew or my floors sinking,” she says.
“There are really no words. To me, they are a Godsend. They are angels.”
“To some people, it might not mean much, but to me, it means a lot.”
Can You Bless Your Neighbors?
When Ralph Jackson first heard of the Paducah Alliance of Neighbors and applied for assistance with his home’s severe heating and cooling needs, he was told that he would have to wait.
“I had to wait a year because I was down the list,” Ralph recalls. During that time, Ralph continued to get heat from dangerous kerosene and cool his home from unreliable window units and fans.
Ralph was just one of the many that must wait for funds or volunteers to become available for their project.
“These are people who are in desperate need of help from us, and really the only hold-back of us doing that is funding,” says Janel Tate, chair of the Paducah Alliance of Neighbors.
If you’d like to help the Paducah Alliance of Neighbors meet these needs, you can mail donations to 300 Fountain Avenue, Paducah, KY 42001.
If you or an organization you are a part of would like to volunteer your time to help the Paducah Alliance of Neighbors with much-needed repairs, please visit www.PaducahAllianceofNeighbors.com or email PaducahAllianceofNeighbors@gmail.com.
If you know of someone who would benefit from services from the Paducah Alliance of Neighbors, applications are simple to complete and can be found at www.PaducahAllianceofNeighbors.com.
The Excitement Continues
Next month, join us as we visit with the inaugural group of families whose lives are changing thanks to the Paducah Alliance of Neighbors’ newest program.
“Through these new homes, we are helping people become homeowners for the first time,” says Janel Tate, chair of the Paducah Alliance of Neighbors. “These homes are bridging the gap between renting or even public housing to now owning their own home—one that is affordable and beautiful.”
“These families, like so many others like them, are working hard, but at the end of the month, it’s not enough to be able to save toward homeownership,” says Sharon Poat, executive director.
“We are helping them achieve that American dream of owning their own home.”
We will have the chance to visit with these families as they are preparing to move into their first homes and hear how their hopes and dreams are coming true, thanks to the Paducah Alliance of Neighbors.