For some area homeowners, conducting needed maintenance on their homes is a struggle. Some have disabilities that prevent them from completing the work, and there are those who simply cannot afford to fix their ailing houses.
For East Central Minnesota homeowners experiencing situations that prevent them from making repairs to their homes, there’s now an organization in the area looking to help.
A Brush with Kindness, a home restoration and repair program that employs the help of volunteers to complete projects, started last year in the Chisago County area.
The program has been in existence for about a dozen years but, until recently, didn’t serve the east central part of the state.
North Branch resident Alan Rasmussen, with the aid of local churches, volunteers and East Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity, got the program to expand to this part of the state.
Rasmussen said about two years ago he went to the Redbird Mission trip in Kentucky, and on the way back home after the completion of the mission, one of the volunteers mentioned an idea that stuck with Rasmussen.
“He said, ‘Wouldn’t it be kind of cool if we could do mission work right here in Chisago?’” Rasmussen said.
Rasmussen said people he talked to thought it sounded like a great idea, but when it came to forming an organization that could help people fix homes, roadblocks starting forming.
“Over the first few months we put together an idea of what this might look like, and then we started having some problems with the law,” he said. “We started looking at the labor laws and somebody came to one of our meetings who was a contractor and said, ‘You’re not going to be able to do this; you’re not licensed to do this.’”
Rasmussen, discouraged with the difficulties the group was experiencing, said God was a guiding influence for him.
“I just sat down and went on the computer and decided to see if the Lord could lead me in the right direction,” he said. “I started researching the Minnesota labor laws and found out there’s an exclusion for Habitat for Humanity.”
An acquaintance of Rasmussen’s told him about the A Brush with Kindness program, which partners with Habitat for Humanity.
So Rasmussen contacted the program’s director, and the director approached Wayne Eller, executive director of East Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity, about bringing the program to the area.
With the backing of Habitat for Humanity, A Brush with Kindness started, albeit at a small scale.
During its first year, a few small projects were completed with limited funds, but the organization is working to get its name out in the community and solicit volunteers and donations.
Habitat for Humanity is its parent organization, but A Brush with Kindness is responsible for all of its own fundraising and soliciting volunteers.
Rasmussen stressed that faith is an integral part of the organization.
“We really bring Christ into the focus,” he said. “That’s the reason why we do what we do. It has nothing to do with just wanting to be good guys. We feel compelled to do what the Lord asks us to do.”
Part of the focus of A Brush with Kindness is incorporating the help of the homeowners when volunteers are working to spruce up their houses.
“We work with them with every aspect,” he said. “It’s more of a team.”
In addition to the requirements of having able-bodied homeowners help with the projects, there are also other factors that come into play when an application for a home repair is being considered:
• Homes must be owner occupied.
• Homes must have a work scope in which A Brush with Kindness and its volunteers have the resources to complete.
• Homeowners must not sell their homes for at least three years after the work is completed except for in incidences beyond the homeowners’ control.
• For extensive projects, homeowners are asked to pledge financial assistance to another homeowner in need if they sell or refinance their home within seven years.
• Homeowners must be home during all times when the volunteers are working on site.
Those who would like more information about, to donate to or to volunteer with East Central Minnesota A Brush with Kindness can visit www.ecmabwk.org, email [email protected] or call 651-361-0229.
Projects are approved through a selection process and completed as funds become available.
Those who donate to A Brush with Kindness will be able to track how their money is being used via a web link supplied to them.