Habitat for Humanity helps Mid-Coast residents prepare for winter

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TOPSHAM — For more than a decade, Habitat for Humanity/7 Rivers Maine has been helping Mid-Coast residents button up their homes for the winter.

The program’s three repair volunteer teams now weatherize about 60 residences a year for families with qualifying incomes, according to Kathy Smith, Habitat’s director of development.

“Calls trickle in pretty much year-round,” she said in an interview Nov. 29. “… Knock on wood, it seems like we’re able to sustain the people asking for help, the three teams and then the funding. It’s kind of an ongoing process to keep all three going.”

Weatherization – geared toward reducing heating expenses and preventing heat loss – includes installation of weather stripping, door sweeps and custom-built interior window inserts, as well as blocking foundation leaks, according to a Habitat news release.

The crews also tackle more critical repairs needed due to damage, older materials wearing out, and maintenance that’s been put off.

In helping older and disabled homeowners to stay in their own homes, Habitat performs work aimed toward boosting the resident’s mobility, safety and independence.

Habitat does not address roof repairs, lead or asbestos abatement. The organization refers those higher-risk jobs to programs like Maine Housing.

Repairs average about $1,500 a home, and the volunteer labor gives the dollars more mileage, Smith noted. Most volunteers are retirees from a variety of backgrounds: corporate workers, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents, college professors.

“Just very eclectic backgrounds, and folks who really want to help their neighbors in the Mid-Coast region to be safe, warm and dry in their homes,” Smith said.

Habitat sometimes contracts with plumbers or electricians for projects outside of the volunteers’ skill scope.

The organization budgets about $138,000 annually toward the program. That amount includes, along with the home repairs, operation of a van, and gas and liability insurance costs.

To qualify for the service, participants must either own their own home or live in one owned by a family member. They must live in Sagadahoc or Lincoln counties, or the Cumberland County towns of Brunswick and Harpswell, and have an annual income of no more than 80 percent of the area median income for their county.

A chart of those levels, which increase depending on family size, is posted at habitat7rivers.org. For a family of one, the levels are $39,950 and $39,700 in Cumberland and Sagadahoc counties, respectively.

Call Habitat at 504-9332 or log onto habitat7rivers.org/weatherization for more information or to download an application for assistance.

Alex Lear can be reached at 780-9085 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Volunteers with the Habitat for Humanity/7 Rivers Maine home weatherization program install custom-built interior window inserts, weather stripping, door sweeps and other tasks.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.