Updated: Apr 15, 2020
Warm Hearts, WARM Shelters—Wilmington Area Rebuilding Ministry
When the hurricane blew out, the men from a local church rushed in to begin rebuilding, focusing on the storm-damaged homes of the community's low-income neighbors. But what they discovered changed their mission. The need for repairs had existed well before the storm, but the occupants did not have the resources to be able to make their homes safer for their day-to-day lives.
And so began the Wilmington Area Rebuilding Ministry. For more than 20 years now WARM has been uniting compassionate people to rebuild homes and restore hope by making people safer in their own homes. Very often those who benefit are elderly or disabled who need wheelchair ramps, grab-bar installation, plumbing improvements, roof or floor repairs, installation of essential appliances and heating and cooling, and whatever else that can lower the risk of falls, fires, and other home accidents. All WARM repairs are related to safety or health issues.
With the assistance of a dedicated core of local volunteers, several of whom bring their professional construction and repair backgrounds to the job, WARM is able to prepare the sites and supervise additional volunteers, many of whom have no previous experience. Last year alone 2300 volunteers repaired nearly 150 homes. Volunteers come from across the country. Some are "voluntourists," making volunteering a significant part of their vacation. Others come from church mission teams. Some church groups come back every summer or every other year. Also, local business and churches designate Service Days and send volunteers regularly. Some people find WARM through VolunteerMatch.com or WARM's Facebook site.
Why do volunteers come back? Sara Everett, who has been the volunteer coordinator, hears them say that they get more out of the experience than they feel they give, that they are happy to be connected to others who are passionate about volunteering and giving back, and that they discover that no matter the level of their own skills they can make a significant impact for good. And yes, people love being a part of a team, and they also like developing their own home-repair skills.
Sara speaks with a mix of humility and pride of the fact that the recipients of the repairs do not need to pay. The organization also seeks grants and does fundraising for supplies. And then every WARM dollar is stretched by the warm hearts of the volunteers as they pick up their tools and make it possible for those who were so vulnerable to live safely and independently in their own homes.
To locate similar programs in your area, check the national directory of member organizations in the ReFrame Association (reframeassociation.org).