Operation Good Neighbor gets early start on home improvements for Hawkins' elderly and needy

Jeff Bobo • Feb 6, 2019 at 3:07 PM

ROGERSVILLE — Ordinarily Rogersville’s Operation Good Neighbor home improvement program doesn’t start until summer, but with so much need in Hawkins County in 2019, the ministry is getting a big head start.

On Saturday, a group of volunteers from Crossroads Assembly of God in the Persia community pitched in to build a porch ramp for a 39-year-old man who recently became wheelchair bound due to a debilitating illness.

The cost of materials was paid by the recipient’s father, and the Of One Accord ministry’s OGN rounded up the volunteers.

This was the first of what is expected to be a long list of home improvement projects facilitated by OGN in 2019.

A big demand for home improvements

OGN director Mickey Wilcox told the Times News Tuesday he has already received 24 applications for home improvements this year, and another two dozen are expected.

Every year OGN organizes fundraising and recruits outside mission teams and local volunteers to perform much needed home improvements for the elderly and needy.

Wilcox is estimating it will cost around $100,000 for materials alone to meet this year’s need.

That list of needs ranges from simple repairs to complete renovations.

What type of repairs are needed?

“In Surgoinsville, I have an elderly couple whose water lines burst under their house, so that’s a complete plumbing project,” Wilcox said. “We have several homes that need new roofs and probably a dozen ramps that we have to get built. We have a couple who had a tree fall on their power, so some electrical work needs to be done.”

Another house has a rotten floor in the kitchen area. The occupant is a widower who has an old board with a piece of rug on it that he stand on to do his dishes because the flooring has completely separated from the sink counter.

Wilcox added, “We have two houses that are going to be pretty intense. I don’t know if we’re going to be able to tackle them or not, but they need an overhaul from the bottom all the way up. The walls, the roof, the floors — everything.”

Who pays the expenses?

OGN relies on local churches and mission teams to provide the labor, and the majority of costs for building materials comes from local contributions.

Wilcox has applied for $70,000 in home repair grant funds from the highly competitive Carol M. Peterson Housing Fund, but he said OGN is hoping and praying to be awarded half that much.

Oftentimes mission teams begin a project, realize the need is greater than the financial resources available, and they pass the hat to get the job done.

“We have received some grant funding from the U.S. Bank, from the (Rogersville) Walmart and Home Depot, and that will help some of these smaller projects,” Wilcox said. “We’d love to see some involvement on the funding side from some of our local businesses. It’s an investment back into our community.”

Skilled volunteers needed for labor

OGN has four mission teams from outside the region that have committed to return this year and help perform some of the building improvements.

Wilcox said at least two of those mission teams have some very highly skilled tradesmen who will be able to tackle the tougher projects.

One of those mission teams was in Rogersville Tuesday scouting projects to determine which one best fits their skill set for this summer.

Another mission team returning to Hawkins County this summer is from a church in Summertown, Tennessee, that has already performed major home renovations in 2017 at a Surgoinsville home and in 2018 at a Mooresburg home.

Wilcox is also hoping local volunteers can help tackle some of these projects.

“If we can get some good community support and involvement, that will make a real dent in the need,” Wilcox said.

Anyone interested in contributing funding, materials or labor to Operation Good Neighbor can contact Wilcox by calling (423) 523-4712 or email him at ooa.goodneighbor@gmail.com.

The following documentary is about a huge project completed in Surgoinsville by the Summertown, Tenn. mission team in 2017