“Somebody’s [behind] is going to be sued!”
That’s what Austin resident and senior Pat Corrigan said about her home, one of the rehab-designated homes of Eyes on Austin’s Labor of Love program.
Labor of Love, a program offered every August for the past six years by Eyes on Austin, assembles volunteers from Austin, Oak Park and Ottawa, Illinois to provide home improvements to Austin area seniors.
Corrigan, one of this year’s announced senior recipients, claims, however, that the program built her up then let her down when she requested to have new drywall placed in her living room and kitchen.
“I had applied for the program before and had no problems,” said the 67-year-old retiree. “A few years ago, I had garden work done and I was quite satisfied. This year, I had noticed that the walls in the kitchen and living room were cracked and bulging, so I decided to apply to have the repairs done.”
According to Corrigan, things began quite smoothly. A month prior to the Aug. 18, event, Labor of Love organizer Sonny Jackson went to her house to assess the needed work.
She said Jackson took pictures and told her they would be delivering materials to her house on the eve of the event, which was to begin at 7 in the morning that Saturday.
“They left the dry wall on the back porch and said they would be back the next day,” said Corrigan.
Corrigan said the Labor of Love volunteers never showed up that morning.
At around 1 in the afternoon, a full six hours after the Labor of Love program began, Corrigan said she received a visit from Oak Park volunteer Steve Fruth, who told her, “The number of volunteers was down this year and they would not be able to do the job.”
“I was very disheartened,” said Corrigan. “Especially since I was told to remove the plaster on the walls so that the work could be done. I hired a demolition crew to do it, which I paid for. I would never have done that if I thought the work would not be done.”
Corrigan said the problems are further compounded by the fact that the dry wall left on her porch does not match the dimensions of her rooms, meaning she may need to spend more money to obtain the proper lengths.
“My walls are nine feet high, yet the dry wall is only eight feet. That means I need to buy some more dry wall to add to it or just buy it at the correct height altogether,” said Corrigan.
“This is really not something I had planned for,” she added. “When I called them about it they said that the program was over and there was nothing that could be done. This is outrageous.”
Corrigan also is concerned about the materials that have been abandoned on her porch. She said she worries that she will eventually be charged for them by Eyes on Austin.
Nevertheless, Labor of Love organizer and co-founder Sonny Jackson disputes her claims.
He said that the program has worked on her house for three straight years and that this year her job was one that required a specialist in replacing walls. Those assigned to her house did not show up.
“I can’t believe she would say that,” said Jackson. “When Steve Fruth, who was overseeing her project, told her about the specialist being no-shows he said she understood. When I talked to her that Monday [Aug. 20] and told her what had happened, she seemed to be understanding of what happened. I’m just beside myself.”
Jackson adds that the Labor of Love volunteers worked tirelessly to perform the task on Corrigan’s house.
“We had to send off two separate orders for dry wall because when she hired the demolition crew, they removed the wall all the way to the 2-by-4 studding, which meant we had to re-order a different thickness of dry wall.”
Jackson said it rarely happens that the volunteers for Labor of Love – totaling about 160 this year – do not finish a job. But if they do not, Eyes on Austin offers students from their Handyman program to finish the repairs. The program, headed by Rev. William Southworth, teaches youth carpentry skills.
This year, Eyes on Austin was unable to receive the adequate funds to finance the program, leaving Jackson with few alternatives other than to tell Corrigan that she may need to get the work done via her own resources.
“The materials are hers to keep; she just needs to get the work done,” said Jackson. “As long as we have worked with her, I can’t believe she is saying these things. We have always been a program that has looked out for the seniors in the community, her included, and we will continue.”