By Leah Gernetzke
Restoring water pipes, tile, cabinets, fixing drywall and replacing windows – that’s what’s on the agenda this week for students from the University of Cincinnati’s volunteer group "Serve Beyond Cincinnati," who are rolling up their sleeves so Nelmile Walker and her granddaughter can move back home.
Ever since the pipes exploded in her house several months ago, flooding the kitchen and back rooms, Walker and her granddaughter have been living with Walker’s daughter in Americus.
Today was the first day of work on the home, and when I stopped by the site this morning, activity already abounded. The volunteers dragged out furniture and other personal items so they could start the renovation work. A roaring bonfire nearby served dual functions of keeping the volunteers warm in the chilly, damp December weather and consuming old pieces of unused furniture.
“I sure do appreciate y’all coming out here,” Walker said repeatedly, working side by side with the volunteers and with her daughter to renovate the home she’s lived in for more than a decade.
After a few months of vacancy, several critters took over the residence. A scream followed by a group of college girls running outside evidenced the presence of a rat, and a few cockroaches crawled around as well. A huge, sleepy-looking brown dog named Little Bear hovered outside by an old guitar, watching over the back-and-forth bustle.
I’ve been to just enough work sites to know that today is just the beginning of the excitement. As the week progresses, so will the work, and so, too, will personal stories unfold as the blight that’s taken over Walker’s house is slowly wrestled down and controlled.
Also, a little research shows that this is no ordinary student volunteer group – the students would be more aptly called a volunteer brigade, based on their willingness to work this morning, and also from the stellar reputation that precedes them. In fact, Serve Beyond Cincinnati was named student group of the year in 2009, and since then they’ve been exemplary participants on several Fuller Center Global Builder trips to Haiti and El Salvador. (Learn more here about Serve Beyond Cincinnati).
For now, view a few pictures of the busy morning here … and stay tuned for more updates and photos of this group’s work as the week continues to unfold!