$2.5M Grant Targeted to Help Cincinnati Residents Retain Homes by People Working Cooperatively
Situated in Cincinnati, Ohio, People Working Cooperatively (PWC) has been a stalwart pillar of community service for nearly half a century. Since its establishment 48 years ago, PWC has provided critical assistance to tens of thousands of homeowners in the Greater Cincinnati region by aiding them in affording much-needed home repairs.
In a monumental shift for the nonprofit, PWC recently received a massive $2.5 million grant from the Farmer Family Foundation. This donation, the most significant private contribution in PWC’s history, paves the way for the organization to expand its reach and assistance. Jock Pitts, PWC’s executive director, harbors the aspiration that the grant will enable his nonprofit to help an even greater number of lower-income individuals, senior citizens, and residents with physical disabilities to retain their homes.
The Farmer Family Foundation is a philanthropic entity that focuses its resources on initiatives that bolster K-12 education and students. According to Brynne F. Coletti, the co-chair of the Farmer Family Foundation, the work carried out by PWC aligns seamlessly with their mission. By allowing children to continue residing safely in their homes and maintaining proximity to their schools and peers, PWC is helping to foster an environment conducive to better academic achievement and mental health.
In addition to these direct benefits, Coletti underscored the importance of PWC’s contributions to wealth building within families. The home improvements not only enhance the living conditions but also increase the property value. She went on to highlight how passing on equity and property to subsequent generations creates a solid economic platform for sustained stability. This process positively impacts the local housing market and helps stabilize communities, she added.
PWC’s extensive work has led to the enhancement of more than 3,500 homes across Greater Cincinnati each year. Founded in 1978, the organization partners with homeowners in need within a geographical radius that spans 20 counties of southwest Ohio, Dayton, northern Kentucky, and southeast Indiana. The nature of the projects they undertake varies significantly, ranging from urgent repairs such as roof replacements to energy conservation and weatherization efforts aimed at minimizing utility costs. Furthermore, the nonprofit frequently modify homes to accommodate individuals with mobility issues or other physical challenges, including the installation of wheelchair ramps.
One such beneficiary of PWC’s services is Michael Burnett, a 61-year-old U.S. Army veteran who was recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Coupled with pre-existing knee problems, his condition necessitates the use of a walker and occasionally a wheelchair. Living in an older, compact home in Madisonville presented significant mobility challenges for Burnett, particularly in accessing and utilizing his bathroom.
However, with the help of PWC and assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs, his bathroom was remodeled last autumn. The renovation process, which spanned approximately a month, involved expanding the doorway and reconfiguring the bathroom layout to better cater to Burnett’s needs. Additional modifications, such as moving the toilet and introducing an accessible shower, were also implemented.
Older homes often harbor underlying issues, as was the case with Burnett’s residence. Once the renovation began and the team started to uncover the structure’s framework, they discovered additional problems, including necessary pipe and plumbing fixture replacements.
Pitts highlighted the importance of addressing these issues promptly as they can exacerbate over time if ignored. He illustrated this point with the example of a leaky toilet, a seemingly minor issue at first, but one that could compromise the building’s foundation if left unresolved for years.
In many instances, PWC’s clientele struggles with financial constraints that make it difficult for them to cover their personal day-to-day needs, let alone expensive home repairs. Pitts noted that when a problem arises, homeowners often have no choice but to adapt their lifestyle around it until it becomes unbearable.
One of the main hurdles the organization faces is the limitations tied to its funding sources, most of which come with specific restrictions. This can often limit PWC’s capacity to fully address the needs of a household, regardless of the availability of funds. However, the grant from the Farmer Family Foundation offers a game-changing dynamic due to its flexibility. The sole requirement is that the funds must be expended on home repairs in Butler, Clermont, Hamilton, and Warren counties.
Pitts appreciates the freedom this affords PWC, enabling them to serve their clients in the most comprehensive manner possible. He referred to this as the “whole house model,” which not only offers a more cost-effective and efficient approach but also provides families with safer living conditions.
With this infusion of funds from the Farmer Family Foundation, Pitts anticipates an increase in the number of homes PWC can service each year. Presently, the organization tends to nearly 3,500 homes across the region annually. However, there exists a waiting list of over 2,200 clients within Butler, Clermont, Hamilton, and Warren counties alone.
PWC’s work extends far beyond individual families or homeowners. Pitts believes the projects undertaken by the organization have the potential to stabilize entire neighborhoods via homeownership. They help to prevent properties from descending into a state of neglect and decay, which could pose safety threats.
Pitts also pointed out the ripple effects of enabling families to stay in their homes. It reduces the strain on local resources aimed at providing affordable housing and combats homelessness. He even linked home improvements to better health outcomes, such as reducing instances of asthma, a leading cause of child hospitalization.
In his words, the transformative impact of the grant from the Farmer Family Foundation will extend beyond PWC, to the families, neighbors, and communities they serve. Homeowners in need of crucial home repairs can approach PWC through their website.
Reflecting on his experience with PWC, Burnett spoke highly of the team, praising them as “hard workers but better people.” He expressed his gratitude for their service and voiced confidence in their capacity to help many more in need, saying, “From the secretary when you first get in there to the guys putting up drywall, they’re like family — and I’m so thankful for them.”