Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

May 19, 2013

Helping in the neighborhood

About 200 volunteer for Repair Affair

Mike James
The Independent

ASHLAND — The modest ranch house in the middle of the 2100 block of Sellars Street looked a lot different at 11 a.m. Saturday than it did three hours earlier.

The lawn was cut, including high grass and weeds in the back yard, several cubic yards of trash had been removed from under the rear deck, some small saplings had been cut down along with a bent and rusty gate blocking entry to the back yard, and the worn wood siding was getting a new coat of paint.

The work was all courtesy of a crew of about 30 workers from the Marathon Petroleum refinery. They were among the approximately 200 volunteers who spent most of Saturday doing household projects in Ashland’s 13th annual Repair Affair.

“I wish you could have seen this back yard this morning,” said Cathy Cremeans. The closely clipped grass had been long and straggly, and home to at least one small snake, which startled volunteers, she said.

Cremeans, who lives in Ironton, was working with her husband, Dan, and their children, Isaac and Alyssa. “It’s important for us to be part of the community,” she said. “The river doesn’t need to separate us.”

Team leader Nicci Triche said she recruits volunteers from all over the plant each year “and it’s getting bigger every year.” This time she had about 30 volunteers, from all departments, workers and supervisors alike, so she looked for a more challenging project to take on.

In the 600 block of 25th Street, Chris Long and his family were building a handicap ramp and sprucing up the yard of the disabled homeowner. They had built a raised planter in the yard to disguise a small tree stump and were planting hostas. Long, his wife Paula, brother Mark and daughter Karissa have been participating in the event since its inception. They were joined Saturday by their daughter’s friend Katelyn Rigsby.

“We have to give something back to the community and help people that wouldn’t ordinarily be helped,” he said.

Members of the Carpenters’ Union celebrated a busman’s holiday in the 4200 block of Gussler Street, building a handicap ramp and performing other chores. Volunteer projects are a regular thing for the members, who take on projects as diverse as Habitat for Humanity and the Festival of Trees, said Greg Stevens, who was working with Rick Gallion to saw out stringers for the deck stairs.

They’ve built as many as three ramps in one event, he said.

“We’re trying to pay it forward,” Gallion said.

This year’s event included 38 projects, with volunteers doing yard work, cleaning gutters, painting houses, fixing hand rails, and repairing doors, and building more ramps, said Mike Miller, Ashland’s director of planning and community development.

Homeowners qualify based on income, age and disability status and submit applications, he said. About 200 volunteers showed up, which is about average, from banks, churches, civic groups and businesses. Some city workers and individuals not affiliated with a group also donated their Saturday.

Area businesses helped out with donated and discount materials.

Over its 13 years Ashland’s Repair Affair has completed more than 650 projects, Miller said.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.