Students Volunteer to Help Local Residents

Spring cleaning: you either love it or hate it.

However, for people who have physical disabilities or medical conditions, spring cleaning can be more than just an unpleasant chore – it can be impossible or, at best, an extremely painful experience.

To ease the burden for area senior citizens and people with disabilities, Jenna Derrico, a VISTA worker who serves as special projects coordinator for Faith in Action Caregivers, organized the second annual spring cleaning project for residents at high-rise apartment complexes in Ohio, Marshall and Belmont counties. To perform the cleaning chores, she recruited students from local colleges and universities as well as students visiting the Wheeling area on spring break service trips.

In 2010, the first year for the project, several students from Wheeling Jesuit University spent a day cleaning residents’ apartments at Brook Park Place in Wheeling. This year, the project was expanded to encompass 10 residential facilities in Faith in Action’s three-county service area; Derrico also enlisted volunteers from more schools and the work was spread out over a two-month period.

Over the course of this spring’s endeavor, 179 volunteers gave their time – a total of 1,089 hours – to clean 196 apartments, Derrico said. Those helped included 70 people who currently receive care from Faith in Action Caregivers and 128 new care receivers, she added.

Locally, participating students represented Wheeling Jesuit University and Bethany College. Out-of-town volunteers came from St. Joseph’s University, Boston College, Emmanuel College, Stonehill College, Canisius College, Allegheny College and Boston College High School, she said.

Offering a breakdown of services by site, Derrico said the volunteers’ cleaning tallies were as follows:

  • 15 apartments plus common areas at Booker T. Washington Apartments in Wheeling;
  • 17 apartments and common areas at Riverview Apartments, Wheeling;
  • 19 apartments plus common areas at Montani Towers, Wheeling;
  • 37 apartments and a community room at George W. Petroplus Towers, Wheeling;
  • 13 apartments and a community room at Bridgeport Manor;
  • 26 apartments and a community room at Garden Park Apartments, Wheeling;
  • 13 apartments at Luau Manor, Wheeling;
  • 35 apartments at Brook Park Place, Wheeling;
  • 15 apartments at Golden Towers, Moundsville;
  • Seven apartments at Helfer Pavilion, Moundsville.

Derrico said the project was made possible by a partnership with Kyla Morris of the Wheeling Housing Authority, Danny Swan of Laughlin Memorial Chapel, Beth Dale and Mary Ellen Cassidy of WJU’s Appalachian Institute, Richard Cain and John Whitehead of WJU’s Laut Honors program, Glynda Marie Walker of Brook Park Place Residents’ Association, representatives of the other participating schools and the site managers and maintenance crews at each of the buildings visited this year.

The coordinator borrowed ladders, step stools, buckets and a vacuum cleaner from Faith in Action supporters. Derrico explained that cleaning supplies were donated or purchased with monetary and in-kind donations. Donors included the Moundsville Rotary Club and Wheeling Hospital. St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Wheeling provided its van to transport the cleaning supplies and equipment to the various sites.

After completing their assigned tasks, volunteers shared lunch with residents during the cleaning days at Brook Park Place and at Golden Towers. DiCarlo’s Pizza, DeFelice Bros. Pizza and Greco’s provided the luncheon food at Brook Park Place, while the management of Golden Towers provided pizza for the lunch there, Derrico said.

Jeanette Wojcik, executive director of Faith in Action Caregivers, said that organizing spring cleaning services for care recipients has been a long-term dream of the nonprofit, interfaith ministry. She hopes that the annual cleaning program can continue in future years.

However, the project takes considerable time and effort to coordinate, and staffing is an issue for the organization. Derrico’s service contract with VISTA will conclude in July. Faith in Action officials have not heard yet whether the agency will obtain a VISTA position for 2011-12.

Judging by the reaction and comments from Brook Park Place tenants on their cleaning day, the help was a godsend. Tackling chores for Brook Park Place residents were students from Wheeling Jesuit’s Laut Honors program; Cain, their adviser, and WJU alumna Kathy Myles of Wheeling also pitched in to help.

At Glenna Dillon’s apartment in Brook Park Place, WJU students August Capiola of Washington, Pa., and Lewis Akers of Ripley flipped the mattress on her bed and moved furniture to sweep hard-to-reach spots in her living room and dining area. Asked if she appreciated the assistance, Dillon replied, “Oh, good heavens, yes, especially to see boys doing it.”

While WJU student Christopher Bohinski of Wilkes Barre, Pa., Myles and Cain cleaned and washed walls in Katy and Al Renshaw’s apartment at Brook Park Place, Katy Renshaw remarked, “I’ve lived here five years, and I need knee replacements. I can’t climb ladders.” Her husband’s medical condition also prevents him from cleaning, she said.

“They’re a real blessing. We love it,” Katy Renshaw said as she watched the volunteers at work.

At Patsy Kinder’s Brook Park Place apartment, WJU students Emily Teachout of Wheeling and Allie Miller of St. Clairsville washed windows and put up curtains. Kinder remarked, “I really do appreciate this.”