WEST PEORIA — In the past 12 years, a local nonprofit ministry has completed over 500 home repair, home improvement and maintenance jobs for almost 300 underprivileged families and individuals in the greater Peoria area.
West Peoria resident Jeff Heft had a vision for what he calls “a ministry to help underprivileged people with home repair” in 2000.
“I got a vision for it in early 2000,” said Heft. “We were incorporated in November of the year 2000.”
Shortly after incorporating, the nonprofit ministry called His Helping Hands, Inc. started receiving requests for wheelchair ramps.
“Eventually it got to a point that we did a request every now and then for a wheelchair ramp, and as word got out that we were also helping with wheelchair ramps, we started getting so many requests that we actually made that a program also where we build wheelchair ramps for people,” said Heft.
His Helping Hands, Inc. has also started a program that helps low-income individuals become first-time homeowners.
“About a year and a half ago we started a program where we take homes that are disinvested and we get them and then we rehab them and then we help someone become a homeowner,” said Heft. “We sell the home for less than market value. It’s got to be a lower income person. We need help cleaning and painting and fixing up homes to get them ready so people can buy them and become a first-time homeowner.”
In addition to building wheelchair ramps and rehabbing houses, ministry volunteers paint houses, clean gutters, repair porches and steps, rake leaves and perform other services free of charge for the elderly, single mothers, people with disabilities and others in need who live in their home, but are unable to maintain the property.
“Any type of handyman-type services and even with yard work and cleaning gutters and painting,” said Heft. “Really just about any type of handyman work or chores around the house, we do that year round.”
The ministry is looking for skilled craftsmen who can volunteer their services.
“In the last two or three years, we’ve really seen an increase in demand,” said Heft. “It’s actually to the point that it’s hard for us to keep up. We’ve got a lot of great volunteers, but most of them are working, so weekends are the only times they can work or are available and a lot of our jobs are in older homes where there’s not a lot of room to get several people involved. On the home repair jobs there’s a need to have people with a skill set where they can almost work independently.”
Several volunteers will be needed on April 13 when the ministry, Advocates for Access and the Community of Foundation of Central Illinois will build 10 wheelchair ramps in 10 different communities in one day.
“We’ll need a lot of volunteers because we’re going to try to do that in one day,” said Heft. “We’re going to build one in Pekin, Creve Coeur, Bartonville, Washington, East Peoria, Peoria, West Peoria, Rome, Chillicothe and then there’s one more.
“We’re going to need over 100 volunteers that day and we are also looking for people with construction knowledge that might be willing to lead a team —lead a group of 8-10 volunteers in building the ramp. I’ve got seven of the ten team leaders in place.”
To become a ministry volunteer, email Heft at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at (309) 256-1246.
His Helping Hands, Inc. is funded by individuals, churches, businesses and organizations. To learn more about the ministry, visit hishelpinghandsinc.org.