Jeannette Brooks’ Goffstown home is tidy and compact, just right for a senior couple and a cat who enjoys lounging in front of the sliding glass door.
But after 15 years little things are starting to break. The metal cord holding up the dryer door has snapped. A doorknob doesn’t turn. A sliding closet door won’t stay on its runner.
Instead of phoning a neighbor, consulting Angie’s list, thumbing through an out-of-date Yellow Pages, or politely begging a friend’s handy spouse, Brooks turned to a little-known resource she’s relied on for five years: the Fixit Corps of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program at Southern New Hampshire Services.
The corps serves adults 60 and older and disabled homeowners regardless of income, although preference is given to those who lack the financial or physical ability to do it themselves.
Brook’s phoned-in request for repairs was sent out by email — and quickly netted results: Al and Judith MacLellan, both 76, a husband and wife team from Bedford, arrived within a week to assess the job and make repairs for free, plus the cost of materials.
“For people who are struggling, this is a tool to help them remain in their homes,” said Sandi Cotter, volunteer services program manager for Southern New Hampshire Services and RSVP.
“Especially if you’re low-income, it really hurts because it’s expensive” to hire a contractor, said Brookes, 71, who has relied on Fixit Corps to repair a lawn chair, a doorbell, a front door by tightening its hinges, and install air conditioners and a new dryer light.
The repairs are free; any donations support the costs of maintaining the program.
For roughly 10 years, RSVP’s Fixit Corps has helped seniors in Hillsborough County by completing standard repairs and safety modifications, such as wheel chair ramps and bathroom grab bars, that can be completed in five hours or less. Occasionally the work has run to repairing small appliances, or installing unusual but helpful features, such as a dumbwaiter in a Victorian home.
Since April 2017, its volunteers, including handy retirees or former contractors, have responded to 87 requests, fixing leaky faucets and toilet tank valves, installing weather stripping and handrails, replacing rotted deck boards and porch steps, lamp cords, screen doors, hard to reach smoke alarm batteries and even ceiling light bulbs that are out of reach. The corps’ current 15 volunteers have skills in plumbing, carpentry and electrical work.
“I really enjoy fixing stuff,” said Al MacLellan, a retired project manager for AT&T, who came with a contractor’s belt loaded with tools. “The more challenging it gets the more fun it seems to be.” MacLellan fixed Brooks’ closet door by raising the level of the metal runner with a small piece of wood he cut from a left-over section he brought from home.
His wife, Judith, assists and enjoys chatting with clients, many of whom are elderly and live alone.
“When Al does stuff around the house I help him. I run to the hardware store, go out to the car for a tool, or hold up the other end of something. We never met an air conditioner we couldn’t move.”
After a 27-year career in the Navy, much spent on a nuclear submarine, John Fisher, 68, worked as chief engineer for the Florida Aquarium before retiring to Nashua, bringing skills in plumbing, electrical work and carpentry he acquired along the way.
“It’s an opportunity to give back,” said Fisher, a Fixit Corps volunteer for 10 years, who has a PhD in information systems. “It’s gratifying. I’ve got a number of folks who are almost family that I do jobs for on a regular basis.”
“These are people who really want to give of themselves and are very caring. I can tell you the name of every volunteer who has come to my house,” said Priscilla Morin, 84, who has relied on Fixit Corps to help her maintain her Victorian-era family home in Nashua.
“I guess I’m paying it forward,” said Fisher. “One of these days I hope I can call the Fixit Corps for help to keep me in my house.”
To call for repairs or to volunteer for Fixit Corps, which is seeking volunteers, call Heather Tourette, program coordinator, at 603-634-1169.