Home repair project unites community

By Gregg Alexander, Rotary Club of Bozeman Sunrise, Montana, USA

For six years now, my Rotary Club has provided home repair assistance to local residents through the Bozeman Fix-Up Festival. Giving preference to elderly and disabled homeowners, we strive to provide home improvements to low-income residents who either can’t afford them or are physically unable to complete the work themselves. The impact of this one-day event stretches far beyond just benefits to the homeowners: The festival touches many lives and brings the community together.

Finding homeowners in need
We begin planning in January and wrap up in mid-November. We begin by developing a budget and conducting outreach to find applicants. We partner with local nonprofits to educate and identify homeowners who may be in need of assistance. We do require that they own their home and that they fall below the state of Montana’s poverty level.

We publicize the project on the radio, through TV interviews, and social media marketing to drive interested people to our website, where they can fill out an application. Once the April application deadline is past, our committee members conduct interviews, go on home visits, and verify applicants’ income.

Over the last five years, we’ve completed work on almost 60 homes.

Funding and volunteers
While homes are being evaluated, the festival committee seeks out businesses and organizations to sponsor each home. Sponsors must provide a certain level of funding, along with a number of volunteers on Fix-Up Day to complete the work. We’ve found that sponsors find the festival rewarding and a great team-building activity.

To make all this happen in one day takes many dedicated volunteers. Each project has to be detailed out, a list of materials created and delivered, skilled laborers assigned to work with sponsor teams, meals secured, trash and debris removal planned, material runners assigned for additional materials, and much more! All of this has to be done for each home, so it’s a large undertaking — made possible by lots of volunteer hours from the Rotarians on the committee.

The impact
After six years, our operations have become more efficient. But it’s still amazing to see the festival come together in a single day. Walking around and talking with volunteers and homeowners, you realize that the reward isn’t only for the people being helped but also for everyone involved. The day is filled with smiles, hugs, tears of joy, and pride and humility shared as a community. The day reminds us all that we are in this together and it is our duty to place Service Above Self.

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