When a resident used the new handicap access ramp built at her home by members of the South Kingstown Elks Lodge No. 1899, it was the first time in months she had been outside, Elks members said.
The access ramp is the first of several local projects being funded by a $10,000 grant from the Elks National Foundation. After receiving the grant in November, members of the lodge founded a Home Maintenance and Repair Assistance Program, or HoMRAP, through which those in need may receive services to repair their home, such as yard maintenance, cleanup, painting and other small projects.
“There are many families and individuals in South Kingstown and the surrounding area whose homes are in disrepair/not maintained, who do not have the physical capacity or resources to correct the deficiencies,” lodge member Ken Kenerson wrote in the grant application submitted in 2014. “This often results in hardship and unsafe conditions and could result in the loss of one’s home.”
“This ended up being the perfect winter for it, being pretty much a ‘stay inside’ winter,” member John Alden Jr. said in an interview. An upcoming project will repaint a home in Narragansett and replace a shed with a roof damaged from the winter, Alden said.
The lodge partnered with The Center, the South Kingstown Senior Center, to get the word out. Many, but not all, of the projects selected are for senior citizens.
“An application came in for an access ramp, for which the homeowner purchased some material and obtained a building permit,” Alden said. “It was a larger project than we initially planned; we had to fit this thing into a really postage-stamp area. The soil condition was tough. We ended up setting 22 posts [for the ramp]. We’re waiting receipt of the special rail system we have to use for the ramp to complete it.”
The project will then be complete after about a month’s worth of work that included more than a dozen Elks volunteers, donations from community organizations, and a budget of less than $2,000. It’s anticipated to be the biggest project HoMRAP undertakings. Other projects include another access ramp in South Kingstown, cellar bulkhead replacement, and storm door repair at another home.
“The lady who needs the bulkhead replacement, she has a lot of other little things to do,” Alden said. “She 94 years old. It made me feel good to just go in there and talk with her.”
“A program of free home maintenance and repair doesn’t exist in our community, and for a relatively small amount of money we expect the program to have a significant community-wide impact,” Kenerson wrote in the grant application.
South Kingstown Elks Lodge No. 1899 also partnered with Neighbors Helping Neighbors RI, based in Charlestown, to establish “best practices” for HoMRAP, and the group became a registered contractor in Rhode Island, allowing it to perform the maintenance work.
The Elks lodge has a mission focused on public service, including senior activities, college scholarship awards, a drug awareness program, sports programs for children and community charity support.
To apply for HoMRAP assistance, contact the South Kingstown Elks Lodge No. 1899 at 783-7819, or The Center at 789-0268.