Christmas in Action offers free home repairs to low-income, elderly and disabled homeowners
Writer / Jon Shoulders
Photographer / Jamie Sangar
Each May on the weekend before the Indy 500, a nonprofit organization known as Christmas in Action (CIA) gathers a group of dedicated volunteers in Hamilton County and spends a Saturday making free repairs to the home of an elderly, low-income or disabled homeowner. Such individuals are typically on fixed incomes and struggle to pay for food, utilities and medication prescriptions, often leaving nothing left over to cover costs when home repairs become necessary.
“There are stories that just make your heart cry because you see people who have been through some terrible things, and you realize they’re doing the best they can, and you’re compelled to help them out,” says Karl Lundberg, board president of CIA Hamilton County. “The volunteers certainly feel like they’ve made a difference because the homeowner is truly grateful to have help with things they just can’t afford.”
Back in 2001, New York native Lundberg relocated to Fishers and started a local chapter of CIA, a faith-based nonprofit founded in 1972 by a church Sunday school teacher in Midland, Texas. Lundberg had launched a chapter in Olean, New York, prior to relocating to Indiana, and found the experience to be rewarding for everyone involved.
“I had heard about it at a conference in New York, and it reminded me of my grandmother who was on a fixed income and didn’t have much money,” Lundberg says. “Basically, we have a blitz day with our volunteers where we come in and do repairs that are free to the homeowner. People can apply for help through our web site, and we’ll visit them to look things over and then have them sign a waiver form and show us what needs to get done.”
Typical projects can include interior and exterior painting, window and flooring replacement and roof leak repairs. Volunteers are not required to have prior construction or home renovation experience.
“We typically take on projects that we can start and finish in one day,” Lundberg says. “So, if we see a house that needs a bulldozer or something extensive, that’s really beyond what our scope is. If you need your house painted, then we get 15 people or so together to paint in one day — that’s what our scope tends to be.”
Those in need of assistance can fill out a two-page application on the official CIA website, including contact information, monthly income and descriptions of requested repairs. The website (see URL below) also features a volunteer application form and a link for direct online donations, which are tax deductible.
In addition to individual volunteers, CIA receives assistance and support from Habitat for Humanity, SERVE Noblesville and several northside churches and businesses, in the form of supplies and money as well as food for volunteers.
“While the repairs are appreciated, I think sometimes knowing that there are people who care really has a meaningful, emotional impact on the homeowner as well,” Lundberg says. “I’ve seen people break down in tears because they were at the end of their rope, and then when people come in and rescue them it’s a big deal to them.”
For additional details on Christmas in Action including volunteer and homeowner application information, visit christmasinactionindy.org.