SOUTHINGTON — As Chris Cipriano stood outside his home Saturday, he watched dozens of volunteers work on his house. Some volunteers were painting the sides of his house, while others were putting their carpentry skills to use to fix the paneling and wood around the home.
“It’s a miracle,” Cipriano said among the sounds of hammers hitting against wood and loud buzzing of an electric saw.
Cipriano and his wife, Soncerae, had their home chosen by HomeFront to have needed repairs completed by volunteers. The Cipriano’s Southington home was one of 75 projects that were being worked on around the state Saturday.
HomeFront is a “community-based, volunteer-driven home repair program that provides free repairs to low-income homeowners,” according to the organization’s website. The organization has been in existence for 27 years and relies on volunteer groups, according to Executive Director Sean O’Brien.
“The volunteers have fixed over 2,700 homes in our history. It’s a great project,” O’Brien said. “We’re just so proud of these volunteers who have stepped up to help families in need. These are challenging times for older adults living on social security and for low-income families.”
The Cipriano’s home is located on a former Christian summer campground in Southington. Their home, which they’ve been living in for nearly a decade, was built in 1927, Chris Cipriano said. As time went on, the house aged and the wood began to rot. Repairs were necessary to the exterior and especially the bathroom, where the floor began caving in, Chris Cipriano said.
“When we first moved in, I did some inside renovation with a lot of help from a bunch of friends,” he said. “I know how to paint, but carpentry? Forget it.”
Realizing how much the home needed to be repaired, but not able to afford to do the work, Chris Cipriano applied to HomeFront four years ago. His family never heard back, so they “forgot about it.” His friends offered to help him make the repairs, but he was hesitant.
“If you get someone wrong to do it, it could open up another window of problems,” he said.
Three years later, the Ciprianos received a call from HomeFront.
“Thank you Lord,” Chris Cipriano said when he got the call. “Every year, I was praying. I said, ‘Lord, I don’t know how to do this here.”
Different churches in Southington came together Saturday morning to work together to help a family in need. Tables were set up with food, coffee and snacks for the volunteers. They gathered at 9 a.m. and planned to work through the entire day.
On one side of the home were students and teachers from Southington High School painting the walls. On the other side of the house were volunteers from various churches in the area replacing the panels on the walls and fixing one of the screen doors. Five other individuals worked on the deck to make repairs to the bathroom and the floor.
The materials for the repair work was donated by HomeFront, according to Kaye Davis, executive director of United Way of Southington.
“It’s amazing,” Davis said of the number of volunteers. “The generosity of the community is unbelievable.”
Pastor James Debner of Zion Lutheran Church said it was “wonderful” seeing the number of volunteers Saturday.
“Here you have a bunch of congregations coming together and volunteering their time,” Debner said. “They’re putting their faith to action.”
Jeff Fowler, of Grace United Methodist Church, was helping and guiding a volunteer as he used the electric saw to cut a piece of wood.
“It’s great,” Fowler said as he watched the individuals work. “The problem with churches and other organizations is that they sometimes stay within their four walls. They need to be more out into the community where there’s a need.”
As a “faith-based family,” Soncerae Cipriano said she and her husband have been on the other end of the situation — helping other families in need. Getting the call from HomeFront and seeing the volunteers helping her family “enabled us to be good receivers,” she said.
“As a community, we can’t wait to be a part of next year’s project and helping them,” Soncerae Cipriano said.
The goal for the volunteers is to finish the repairs by the end of Saturday. Soncerae Cipriano said a painter will come back in the future to finish the paint job and someone else would come and replace their roof.
“It’s awesome,” Chris Cipriano said as he watched over the volunteers. “To me, it’s a miracle. They’re fixing things that I didn’t honestly think would be fixed.”