ReHabitat program helps poor seniors

By Philippe Djegal - email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Senior citizens make up more than six and a half percent the Smith County population, and too many of them are living in poverty. But, thanks to a $200,000 grant, Habitat for Humanity is forming a new division called ReHabitat of Smith County."

Wanda Hazelwood has lived in her home for 62 years. It was built during World War II.

"I raised all my children here," said Hazelwood. "They [said] 'sell it, mother, sell it,' and get out of the neighborhood."

But, Wanda says selling it was never an option. She loves her neighborhood.

"The neighbors take care of me," said Hazelwood.

She also loves her home. It just needed some work.

"My husband was a carpenter and they worked on it, and we fixed it up," said Hazelwood.

But, as she grows older, Wanda's priorities have changed. Like walking up her front doors steps. That's not as easy as it once was.

"When he said he'd put me a railings up, I was thrilled to death because I can [now] use the front door," said Hazelwood.

"She left to go do something, came back about three hours later and the handrail was done," said Victor Fuentes, director of ReHabitat. "She was screaming out the window 'oh, my god. Oh, my god. I have a handrail.' So, she was really excited."

Habitat for Humanity estimates that nearly half of all Smith County seniors live below the poverty line. ReHabitat will renovate the homes of seniors 60 years of age or older with a maximum budget of $5,000 dollars per home. This project also helps private contractors out, throwing business their way.

"As you know, there's been a slowdown in the construction industry," said Price Arredondo, director of the Hispanic Business Alliance. "So, they've jumped at the opportunity."

Wanda's home is the first of 80 homes to get a facelift by August 2010.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you," said Hazelwood. "It's wonderful, hahaha. They just don't know how much I do appreciate it.", they do. If you'd like more information on this program, click here.

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