FULTON, NY – City officials traveled through the city of Fulton to meet Reach program youth at work sites as they rehabilitated more than 50 homes in the area.
Mayor Ronald Woodward Sr. and first, second and third ward councilors Thomas Kenyon, David Ritchie and Donald Patrick Jr. respectively, visited many of the work sites to meet the Reach youth and staff, and speak with participating homeowners.
“This is really great,” said Mayor Woodward. “The kids are working really hard and the homeowners are very appreciative.”
Reach Mission Trips has brought more than 500 youth members to the city of Fulton for two separate week long camps where they stayed at the Fulton Junior High School with the overall objective of rehabilitating more than 50 homes in Fulton and surrounding areas for disadvantaged homeowners.
At just some of the sites visited, the work included painting, drywall, building railings and stairways, installing Plexiglas porch windows, flooring, insulating and roofing.
All of the repairs came at no cost to the homeowners and were completed entirely by a crew of youth campers and their adult volunteer crew leaders.
Kayla Lingle, 25-year-old crew leader for a work site on Utica Street explained that a lot of the youth campers have little to no experience in home repair, but the crew works together to help each other and work through any issues that may arise.
In her first year with Reach, Lingle said the experience so far had been nothing short of great.
“I recently started co-leading at my church at home (Pennsylvania) and everyone had said such wonderful things about this program that I just felt that I needed to take on this bonding experience and give back to the community,” she said. “And it has been a wonderful experience, our neighbor (homeowner) has been very welcoming, gracious and patient.”
A crew leader for a work site on Seneca Street, Adell Panetta from St. Davids Episcopal Church in Ashburn, Virginia, in her fifth year with the Reach program still found the experience to be just as stimulating for herself as it is for the youth.
“The kids love it, they make so many new friends from all over and they learn so much,” Panetta said. “It’s really an eye-opener for them to see what they’re capable of. There’s so much they didn’t know they could do and the same for me, too.”
As such an example, one of the youth members described the experience as one he would gladly do again, and plans to.
Thirteen-year-old, Jaren Helfrick from Pennsylvania helped to rip up a kitchen floor, install floor tile, and paint for a local homeowner in his first time participating with the Reach Program.
“It’s been pretty cool to be working on a site like this and helping people out,” Helfrick said, adding that making new friends and the sometimes “pretty long” but still fun worship programs helped form his experience that he hopes to do again next year so he can help another “neighbor,” the way the crews referred to the participating homeowners.
Panetta described those homeowners as “appreciative and welcoming,” adding, “I’m so glad we picked up this location, the whole city has been great.”
A crew leader on a different work site, Suzy Nathan told city officials of one shining example of community support that her team had encountered.
Nathan told officials that a priest from St. David’s Episcopal Church in Ashburn, Virginia, had come to visit the youth from the church that were participating with the Reach Program, bringing support and care packages from home.
During his visit to the work site, a nail had punctured through the tire of the church vehicle so they brought the vehicle to the closest car shop, Steve’s Auto.
As the owner of Steve’s Auto learned what the vehicle and the team from St. David’s were doing in Fulton with the Reach program, he fixed and rotated the vehicle’s tires for no charge and instead simply offered, “go take care of those kids, God is good.”
This good deed is one of many from throughout the city including numerous donations in monetary form, dinners or free services such as Burke’s Home Center who delivered materials to work sites at no charge.
Just as the city, one homeowner said the Reach youth at her house went “above and beyond” to fix her house as much as possible in their one week time frame.
“Awesome, that’s the only word to describe it. These kids have been amazing, they have gone above and beyond, doing more than what I had initially applied for. If they see something that wasn’t initially listed and they have the time, they offer to do it,” said Dolores Ahart.
One of the many tasks the crew completed at her house included completely tearing out and re-installing the interior staircase of the house, a task that Ahart did not expect to be completed.
But the surprises didn’t stop there. Ahart had told the team she would eventually buy a carpet and finish the job completely by lining the stairs with carpeting.
“So, today they show up, and they bought me a carpet for my new stairs! I was totally floored, I couldn’t believe they surprised me with that,” she said.
For another local homeowner, the Reach program work was the only way possible to make some of the repairs needed to the house.
“It’s been wonderful, the kids are great and they’ve done a great job. I’m so glad our councilman, Tom (Kenyon) brought this to our attention because as a senior citizen, we would’ve never been able to do this,” said Karen Davis.
Kenyon was thrilled to have this opportunity come to the city and particularly knew of a few homeowners in need within his ward to whom he delivered, picked up and mailed out the Reach application for.
“It’s about knowing your ward, who needs the help. Looking at the seniors living here, and homeowners who wouldn’t be able to get this kind of repair otherwise,” Kenyon said.
All the homes were selected through an application process lasting roughly a year that included completing an application and multiple home visits to inspect the house, the repairs needed and to interview and better understand the homeowners, their needs and their circumstance.
For more than 50 area homeowners, the Reach Mission Trips delivered more than 500 youth members to repair their homes and sometimes even their hope.