By Joel Hall
With the help of students from Boston College, the city of Morrow and the Morrow Business and Tourism Association will renovate the homes of two needy area families.
Next week, the city will host 18 student volunteers as they repair and upgrade homes on Peacock Boulevard and Stratford Arms Circle which have fallen into disrepair.
Morrow Code Enforcement Officer Marti Tracy, who will be working with the students, said the families selected for the renovations have fixed incomes and health problems that interfere with their efforts to keep their houses up to code.
"We were initially going to do some exterior improvements, but once we got inside, we saw that the need is greater," she said. "They haven't been able to keep their houses up and some of our older houses are starting to show some wear and tear."
Tracy said the homes on Stratford Arms Circle were built in the early 1960s and the homes on Peacock Boulevard were built in the early 1970s. She said the two homes chosen for repairs need new electrical outlets, patio and screen door repairs and new lighting fixtures.
Tracy said a local home-repair expert would lead the students in making the necessary repairs.
Yvonne Martin, 62, who lives on Stratford Arms Circle, began receiving disability benefits five years ago after developing diabetes and lymphedema of the legs, a condition that causes painful swelling.
She said the condition prevents her from taking care of her home.
"I can't even stand up long enough to wash my dishes," said Martin. "I can wash a little bit, but I have to sit down. It takes me about two days to clean one room. I get a little over $800 a month, and it is very hard to get supplies and pay for utilities."
From Monday to Wednesday, the city of Morrow will host Martin and her family in the Red Roof Inn while the renovations are being completed on her home. In addition to the renovations, both homes will receive new smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Mike Twomey, president and executive director of the tourism association, said the experience of the volunteers from Boston College will not be one-sided, as the city has planned a number activities for the students. During the week, the students will visit Spivey Hall, the Road to Tara Museum in Jonesboro, the national and state archive buildings in Morrow, and meet with Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Dan Cathy, local historian Ted Key, and former Morrow Mayor Ernest Duffey.
"It's a great program where these college students get to learn a new trade," said Twomey. In addition, "it involves bringing people here who haven't seen this area. We want people to see that this is a viable place to visit."
Erika Boltz, a junior at Boston College, is the trip leader for the 18 student volunteers who will spend their spring break in Morrow. Boltz, who has been involved with volunteer trips since high school, said the group is excited about making connections in a new community.
"We're very excited," she said. "It's a really good experience to immerse yourself in another community. It's a blessing to be able to use the skills that we're all going to bring to be able to help out where we can."
Martin said the makeover planned for her home is a "dream come true."
"It's just a godsend," she said. "I wouldn't have the money to do any of this. It would go undone. I don't have the words to express the gratitude that I have."