Goodwill’s Handy Helper program offers more than a handyman service

CHILLICOTHE – Since June, people with disabilities have been helping run small home projects across the community, but the program is much more than a traditional craft service.

Regardless of the household chores, Goodwill Handy Helpers can provide a trustworthy resource to those in need. While the program benefits Ross County’s residents, it also gives workers a sense of independence, self-worth, and confidence.

“This is what I love to do, I like to help others who need it,” said Paul O’Connor, a Goodwill Handy Helper. “It gives me a sense of pride and achievement.”

It all started when Cana Horner’s aunt at Goodwill of South Central Ohio, mission coordinator, mentioned that she wished there was someone she could call to help raise a new flag. After that conversation, Goodwill launched the Handy Aid Initiative last summer – with the help of a $ 25,000 grant from the Landrum Endowment Fund through the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio and the Ross County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

By employing people to attend Goodwill’s activity and training center, the program helps connect people in the community, with a special focus on seniors and people with disabilities, to help with home projects. From planting flowers to raking leaves and mulching to clearing snow and decorating, these practical helpers can do a variety of tasks.

As soon as the goodwill activities specialist Issac Robinson receives a call from someone in need, he first checks the website with some of the handy helpers. If it’s a job they can do – Goodwill’s Handy Helpers can’t climb tall ladders or do heavy lifting like concrete work and roof repairs – they’re ready and willing.

The program was beneficial to Ross County residents Ed and Donna Weisenberger.

Over the summer, the couple developed health problems and needed help tending their lawn. Ed, who has experience working with the disability community through First Capital Enterprises, was looking for an affordable option when he discovered the Goodwill Handy Helpers. For just one donation to the initiative, the group visited the couple’s home several times to help with whatever assignments they had.

“They are good, honest people and they did a great job,” said Ed.

Goodwill Handy Helper David Horsley opens a bag of paving sand on March 19, 2021.

By March 15, the practical helpers had completed 50 tasks, which corresponds to a total of 150 working hours. Robinson said the program was slow to start, but over time they served more households.

And with each job, the helpers can promote self-esteem and share with others in the community. Practitioner Kim Frey said she enjoys participating in the program because she enjoys helping others and learning new things. Since she started, she has also been able to develop soft skills and be more comfortable with social interactions.

It’s also an opportunity for intergroup mentoring – something that O’Connor was inspired by.

With the success of the Ross County pilot program, it could soon extend to nearby communities.

Jona Ison, GWISCO’s marketing and communications coordinator, said the past year has allowed the organization to see what is working and what is not, but it has also shown that the program is needed. Eventually, Ison is hoping it will expand into the other counties’ goodwill services, though it’s still ongoing.

“We are here to help the community. We want people to access this help as if they were calling a family member or friend,” she said.

The Handy Helpers program employs people who participate in the Chillicothe activity and training center. It offers training on work and life skills, opportunities to explore arts and hobbies, and paid work experience for those who wish.

South Central Ohio Goodwill provides services to more than 300 people in Athens, Fayette, Hocking, Jackson, Pickaway, Pike, Ross, and Vinton counties. More information is available at https://gwisco.org/. Please call 740-702-4000 ext.163 to speak to someone about Goodwill’s Handy Helpers.

Do you have a story tip or comment? Contact Toria at [email protected] or 740-349-1106. Follow her on Twitter @ToriaBarnhart.

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