THE ISSUE: Labor of Love program turns 27
OUR VIEW: Success a result of organizers and generous volunteers
Loss of a job. An injury. Medical expenses.
All these situations can happen in the blink of an eye. And for those who own their own home, general upkeep and/or major repairs unfortunately can't come before paying the mortgage or putting food on the table.
So where can homeowners turn if their roof needs repair or overgrown weeds and brush are taking over a yard?
That's where the United Way of Eastern La Salle County's Labor of Love comes in.
Every year for the past 27 years, hundreds of volunteers spend a Saturday in October traveling to homes in the area with the goal of completing much-needed home improvement projects for low-income, sick or disabled homeowners.
Oftentimes, the volunteers come back to the homes to finish projects that can't be completed in one day.
This newspaper has covered the program since its inception. The generosity of the volunteers and the homeowners' gratitude warrants the publicity.
One Seneca couple helped by the program this past Saturday expressed much appreciation for the services they only recently learned about through the Ottawa Friendship House/Friendship Village.
“This is just so great. When your roof leaks and you have no money, it’s so great that they come out and help for free,” one of the homeowners said.
His wife agreed, saying “We’re very thankful and so grateful. Because of health conditions, things got beyond our control but this will help get us back on track,” she said.
According to the couple, who has raised several foster children, the view of their garage and driveway was obstructed by overgrowth but the LOL team cleared it.
Shelli Ocepek and her husband, Gary, and Shelli’s staff, work tirelessly for months arranging Labor of Love. As Ocepek’s “love child,” she revels in the success and outpouring of support she sees each year.
“It was a day! Some projects were prohibited or postponed due to the rain, but they will get done. Several teams have told me they are returning to the houses to finish, with more than one telling me they have a full day of work left to do,” she said.
Labor of Love volunteers often work past the one day to ensure homeowners receive the work and repairs they are in need of.
Ocepek had nice things to say about the people who help make Labor of Love work each year.
“It is rewarding for all involved to witness firsthand how every homeowner, every home, is special! Projects are customized to the home and the needs of the residents, allowing Labor of Love volunteers to match their skills and available time to the work. The gratitude from the owners and the satisfaction of coming together as a community to improve the well being of others is what brings our volunteers back year after year. It is warm hearts, a lot of work, and a little magic that makes it successful,” Ocepek said.
We're not sure about "magic," but we're certain Ocepek's organization and the generosity of new and old volunteers who come back year after year are what makes this program so successful.
The program has helped hundreds over the years, making homes more comfortable and safe for years to come.
For more information about Labor of Love, or any other United Way program, visit unitedwayelc.org.