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By: Christina Chapman - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Program seeks help rehabbing Saratoga Tower apartments

For decades, the Grundy County Housing Authority has provided stable and comfortable homes for those in the community who need them most — senior citizens and for those with disabilities.

But now, due to federal government budget cuts, the Grundy County Housing Authority stands to lose $55,000 to $65,000 from its operating and capital funds. This could have a direct impact on the monies used to fix and update apartments in Saratoga Tower, a public housing apartment building reserved for seniors and people with disabilities with restricted incomes.

Rather than sitting back to wait and see, housing authority CEO Brent Newman; Julie Buck, executive director for the Community Foundation of Grundy County; and Karen Nall, executive director of the United Way of Grundy County, put their heads together to come up with a way to continue to provide the best homes possible for Saratoga Tower residents.

The result: “Hands for Homes.”

“For years, Saratoga Tower has been taking care of seniors and people with disabilities in this community,” Newman said. “Now is the time they really need help, and we hope people will give strong consideration to helping with this.”

“Hands for Homes” is an initiative to help either financially or by volunteering time and labor to fix and improve Saratoga Tower apartments for incoming tenants.

In return for the labor, the housing authority will donate up to $1,000 to a non-profit of the choice of the group volunteering their time and energy. The amount of money they receive depends on the amount of work done.

Some of the apartments have tenants for a short period of time and, therefore, only need a coat of paint or some minor maintenance, Newman said. But an apartment that has emptied after someone has lived in it for 20 years will need more work.


Grundy County Housing Authority CEO Brent Newman, left, visits with Marge Ferguson, a commissioner of the Housing Authority Board, last April in a new lounge at Saratoga Tower. The GCHA has regularly made improvements to help give Saratoga Tower a home-like feel. It is now seeking the public’s help to continue to do so. (Herald file photo)



“This is a great opportunity for so many different organizations to physically volunteer to do something without necessarily having to involve cash,” Buck said.

The idea is to gather donations and a list of people available for when the supplies and work are needed, she said. This piggybacks with the foundation’s “Not-For-Profit Wish List” surveying area needs and United Way’s volunteer database keeping track of volunteer skills and availability.

On Tuesday, “Hands for Homes” received its first donation — from First Midwest Bank in Morris. The bank donated $3,000.

“It’s our commitment to give back to the community and we have worked with Brent for a number of years,” said Tom Tesdal, president of the bank. “He made a request if we could help, and we decided to use our community reinvestment to do that project.”

On average, it costs $550 in materials for each apartment to be rehabilitated, Newman said. This includes paint, cleaning supplies, toilets, faucets and other materials.

For those who are looking to work rather than donate monetarily, groups of six to eight people are requested for a “crew.”

“I’m already getting calls from people who are getting teams together,” Nall said. “It’s another way for the community to help its neighbors. It’s a positive all around. No one can lose in this initiative.”

Nall said she’s received calls from retirees to high school students looking for community service for their club requirements.

For more information, to donate or to sign up a crew, call Karen Nall at (815) 942-4430.

Copyright © 2011 Morris Daily Herald. All rights reserved.