For more than 20 years project:HOMES has repaired houses and revitalized neighborhoods to help low-income families, disabled individuals and seniors alike. The nonprofit weatherizes and repairs homes daily, while also working on long-term projects to renovate older homes and build new ones.
Since inception, project:HOMES has improved more than 20,000 lives with a staff of 30 and a volunteer team of 1,000. Lee Householder, CEO of project:HOMES, has been with the organization since 2007. “About half of the organization is a weatherization agency, but we have built a reputation for volunteer engagement and community improvement,” Householder says. “We consider ourselves a community development corporation.”
Householder goes on to explain that project:HOMES aids more than 1,000 people each year. “Our goal is to improve lives by improving homes,” he continues. “This has evolved to be a highly technical, certified and licensed profession. Our process involves a detailed analysis of the home with an energy audit to address all the problem areas in the home.”
The professionals of project:HOMES seal air-leaks with insulation, caulk windows and weather strip doors. Additionally, the team repairs leaky duct systems, repairs or replaces inefficient or unsafe heating systems, as well as installs carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.
“Our weatherization program reduces our clients’ heating and cooling costs by an average of 30 percent,” adds Householder. “The work helps families stay in their homes and retain their equity. It prevents widespread losses in low and moderate-income homeownership and helps stabilize communities.”
The organization strives to benefit the community and homebuyers while maintaining its commitment to protect the environment. “We can improve comfort while reducing energy costs and environmental impacts,” Householder elaborates.
project:HOMES promotes the use of energy conservation products and techniques through its fully owned subsidiary, Conservation Strategies, which provides conservation products, energy audits and LEED certification assessment services for individuals, professionals, government agencies and other organizations. The profits from this subsidiary support the operations of project:HOMES, providing funding for the organization’s mission to improve the lives of those in need.
In an effort to help revitalize central Virginia, project:HOMES buys foreclosed and dilapidated homes in challenged neighborhoods, ultimately delivering a major overhaul. “We have a lot of historic homes in our community and our work saves these homes,” Householder says. “We rehabilitate the homes into livable condition while keeping the character of these houses that were built 100 years ago.”
According to Householder, project:HOMES starts with rundown homes in poor condition; from rotten floors to fire damage. The homes are stripped down to the framing and put back together using new construction techniques to ensure energy efficiency. Additionally, the company utilizes architectural detail to maintain the authenticity of historic homes.
The team’s hard way pays off, as project:HOMES received the Golden Hammer award in Virginia for the Best Residential Renovation for 2013. The nonprofit credits its success to its model of managing every project as the developer and general contractor. The company’s process provides consistent quality control and more efficient construction processes, which result in extra savings.
Householder is proud to note that the company started building new homes 10 years ago on vacant lots to help provide stable, affordable housing in the Richmond, Va., area. The organization is committed to building new construction homes with style and craftsmanship of the past, floor plans that support lifestyles of the present, as well as energy efficiency features that utilize the technology of the future.
Revitalization project managers at project:HOMES are trained as Home Energy Raters, and each new home is independently certified as a high efficiency home. This process begins with the building plans, continues with inspections throughout the construction process and ends with a final certification. “Our work brings new investment to older developments while providing an attractive alternative to costly suburban sprawl in our area,” notes Householder. “We’re creating healthier and more vibrant communities.”
Wheelchair Ramps for all in-need
A volunteer program at project:HOMES, the Renew Crew, helps tackle the growing waiting list for home repairs and wheelchair ramps. “In 2004, wheelchair ramp production doubled, thanks to one employee with a vision for innovation that resulted in a modular wheelchair ramp design that was less expensive and easier to install than a traditional ramp,” Householder explains. “Ramp building changed drastically with the modular design. Before, it used to take us four to five days to build one from scratch and dig post holes by hand. It was very laborious.”
With the new design, volunteers can build and install a ramp in less than eight hours; more than 9,000 volunteers have built nearly 1,000 wheelchair ramps using the modular design. The ramps made a significant impact on the lives of many, including injured war veterans, seniors suffering from Parkinson’s disease and disabled children who rely on the ramps to meet the school bus.
Dozens of corporations have stepped up to help project:HOMES build and install wheelchair ramps by providing grants and volunteer hours. In 2012, the nonprofit embarked on one of its largest corporate partnerships to-date when Capital One awarded project:HOMES with two years of grant funds totaling $150,000, as well as intensive volunteer support for up to 60 clients on the waiting list for a wheelchair ramp.
As project:HOMES reached the milestone of helping 20,000 lives in 2013, work began to prepare for the company’s future. While expansion options and new revitalization plans are considered, the one constant for project:HOMES is the mission to improve lives by improving homes.
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