FULTON, NY – City officials including Mayor Ronald Woodward Sr. and his executive assistant, Cathy Trowbridge, the common council and code enforcement officers recently welcomed the staff of the Reach program as they gear up for their stay in the city of Fulton.
Reach Mission Trips is preparing for two separate week-long youth camps in which campers will aim to rehabilitate dozens of homes in the Fulton area that belong to disadvantaged home owners.
In the first week starting July 10, roughly 432 campers of both junior and senior high students will tackle significant home repair to 41 homes in Fulton and surrounding areas.
Similarly, in the second week starting July 17, roughly 150 senior high students only will complete repairs on 11 homes in the area.
Repairs include roofing, deck/wheelchair ramp construction, interior/exterior painting, drywall and flooring with all of the materials and labor provided at no cost to the home owner.
Instead, generous donations from local residents, businesses and individuals have provided some compensation for the needed materials along with a portion of each camper’s $420 registration fee.
“It has been a pleasure so far to bring Reach here. The school district, the city, churches, local businesses and groups, the residents, everyone has been so supportive. It’s phenomenal, anything we need, they’ve been about it,” said Anna Clarke, Reach host site coordinator.
The school district was very influential in bringing Reach to Fulton and the Junior High School currently houses the Reach staff and campers during their stay.
“We have really pushed to stay local,” said another Reach coordinator, Ed Proto.
While Reach has partnerships with larger chain stores throughout the nation, Proto said a lot of materials and needs have been serviced through local businesses.
“Chuck from Burke’s Home Center has been wonderful, delivering materials for free and everything. The local businesses are donating dinners, gift cards, materials. People have been so generous,” he said.
The support will be reciprocated, coordinators said, as campers and staff will be eating, shopping and enjoying entertainment in the area.
The campers are allowed one full day where they can explore the surrounding areas before returning for an annual volleyball tournament of campers versus staff, in which Reach staff humbly boasted its “undefeated” status.
The celebration, exploration and fun comes after a week full of hard work, camaraderie and most often life changing experience, for campers and home owners alike.
Each day the campers have a wake up call, breakfast, a morning worship service, and are off to their work site by 8 a.m. to return by 3 p.m. for showers, dinner and an evening program before bed.
“The week is always so eventful, but the kids are always so happy to be doing the work and they develop friendships and lessons they didn’t imagine. I’ve never had a camper who says they wish they didn’t do it at the end of the week,” said Clarke.
Likewise, the more than 50 selected homeowners look forward to the much needed repairs to their home that may otherwise not have happened.
Trowbridge, assistant to the mayor, told the case of a woman seeking the city’s help in times of desperation as she couldn’t afford the repairs needed and was on the brink of losing her home.
“It’s just heartwarming, knowing that this came at the perfect time for her and she can have hope for her home,” Trowbridge said.
Clarke shared similar stories, including a family in Volney who adamantly loved their home despite the fact that it was nearly falling down around them.
The owners, caring for family members in need, were “over the moon grateful” for the Reach program essentially saving their home.
“That’s what makes it all so worthwhile,” said Clarke. “Knowing that it’s going to make such a difference.”
As a Fulton resident herself, Clarke said she found a new kind of support she had never had before moving to this city.
“There’s so much support from the community here that I didn’t find in Baldwinsville,” she said, even something as small as welcoming her to the city or help from her neighbors to the entire community atmosphere surrounded by support, and for that she is particularly happy to service her community with the Reach program, she said.
The homes were selected through a fairly long vetting process including an application and numerous house visits to inspect the home and understand the needs and circumstances of the owners to ensure the work is done on houses that really need it.
“There is a lot of need for it here in Fulton,” said Proto. “We work by our goal, to make these houses ‘safer, warmer, drier.’”
Sixth Ward councilman, Larry Macner told the Reach staff, “It’s about quality of life, that’s how I see it. And what you’re doing is helping out somebody who really needs it, and that’s something we can all stand behind and support.”
Mayor Woodward expressed his thankfulness to the program for coming to Fulton.
“The city welcomes you,” he told Reach staff. “We have been hit with many financial hardships, but it’s the nice volunteer groups like this and the existing ones we have for our parks and our lake and such, that really make a community whole. So, thank you for doing this.”