Home Sweet Home: Volunteering with AHIP

A group of student volunteers from Madison House are helping to keep the homes of local residents safe and warm during winter through their service with the Albemarle Housing Improvement Program (AHIP).

Madison House’s Housing Improvement Program is an energetic group that strives to improve the housing conditions of low-income residents by partnering with various local non-profit organizations, including AHIP. This semester, Madison House sends 38 University of Virginia student volunteers for three shifts each week with AHIP and they tackle diverse projects from roofing to building emergency and wheelchair ramps while working closely with AHIP’s Volunteer Coordinator Corbin Breaud.

“Madison House volunteers are really the backbone of the AHIP volunteer program,” commented Breaud. “Without the steady flow of labor that Madison House provides, we would not be in a position to take on many of the jobs that we do now. One of the most important parts of AHIP’s relationship with Madison House is the stories of our work and our clients that our volunteers carry back to Grounds and share with their peers. It’s always wonderful to introduce U.Va. students to a side of Charlottesville that they aren’t exposed to on Grounds. To see the spark of compassion that is ignited by our service projects and the relationships formed between our volunteers and clients is truly the most rewarding part of our shared mission.”

The partnership between Madison House and AHIP is natural because AHIP actually began as volunteer grassroots effort by U.Va. students to clean up debris and repair damaged houses after Hurricane Camille struck central Virginia in 1969.

Morgan Matson, the Head Program Director for the Housing Improvement Program at Madison House and a member of the Class of 2015, shared her thoughts on volunteering with AHIP after a shift at the Southwood Mobile Home Park in Charlottesville earlier this month:

“During one day’s work, we accomplished fixing a floor, half-way completing a ceiling, and generally improving the atmosphere surrounding the house by raking leaves, collecting debris, and fixing a back wooden entrance. Housing improvement is a fantastic opportunity to make a physical difference that will last the homeowner, or even the community, a few decades or more. It means the world to me because I am not just feeding a family for day, but providing them a safe, comfortable environment to live in, sometimes for the rest of their lives. Meeting the families is especially powerful because you take a step into their lives when you make the commitment to help them. I have met families who have broken down in tears because of our help. Knowing that every hour I spend helps someone’s living situation, but also their dignity as a human being — that is what housing improvement means to me.”

The positive impact on students and local residents is clear in Madison House’s partnership with AHIP: volunteering through Madison House provides U.Va. students with an opportunity for educational and personal growth, and our community partners benefit from the increased capacity that consistent, weekly volunteers provide.

“During extreme weather, such as the record-low temperatures in recent days, our phones become extremely busy,” says Katie Davenport, Manager of Development & Communications at AHIP. “We experienced a surge of 16 new calls for small, urgent repairs within two weeks this winter—mostly families without heat, unsecure windows and doors, or leaking roofs. The work that Madison House does for local families provides much-needed maintenance before a repair turns into a dire situation jeopardizing a family’s safety, health, and well-being.”

To learn more about the Housing Improvement Program at Madison House, click here. To see a slideshow with more photos of Housing Improvement volunteers at work with AHIP featured by UVA Today, click here.