Bringing together residents from Austin, Oak Park, River Forest and Ottawa, Ill., the Labor of Love program is again inviting volunteers to help make life a little easier for some of Austin’s low-income homeowners.

This year, however, the event will be a bit more economical. Saturday’s Labor of Love, sponsored by Eyes on Austin, 5519 W. North Ave., will see no major format changes, although organizer and event co-founder, Sonny Jackson says fewer resources were available from companies and private donors this year because of the weak economy. This is the program’s seventh year.

“We still have many of the same contributions from companies such as Wal-Mart and Home Depot, who have been great in giving of their time and supplies to our program the last few years,” said Jackson. “However, the amount of resources they can give is a bit more limited because of the rising costs of supplies.”

Businesses contributing in the past, such as Menards, may not be able to do so this year.

“If [private donors] are used to contributing $500, this year it may be cut to $250. We simply have to adjust and pool our resources to make it work.” Gas prices will also force many volunteers to carpool more, along with out-of-pocket expenses for resources such as tools.

Nevertheless, Jackson adds, “It is well worth the sacrifice.”

Labor of Love originated with a meeting between EOA members James Hammonds, Sonny Jackson and Ottawa resident Debbie Devron at a summer camp in 2000. Devron had started her own Labor of Love program in Ottawa. EOA members were inspired to start a similar program on the West Side, which has a substantial number of elderly homeowners, many of whom are unable to afford repairs on their properties due to their fixed incomes.

Since then, Hammonds, Jackson and his wife, Jean, have spent the early summer recruiting volunteers for the program. They generally involve improvements to the home’s aesthetics.

Labor of Love has garnered financial support from Shorebank and Home Depot. The annual event designates one day in August to gather volunteers for handyman work on the homes of Austin area elderly and disabled persons. Some volunteers are experienced carpenters with years of training on roofing and plumbing, but most are community residents willing to contribute by painting a wall, fixing a door or purchasing supplies.

Local politicians, such as State Sen. Don Harmon (39th) and State Rep. Deborah Graham (78th), have participated in the event the last three years and are expected to attend this Saturday.

Fruits of their labor

Applicants must live in Austin, own their own property, and the house must be a low-income property. Repairs must be completed within a single day. The volunteers meet at 6 a.m. this Saturday morning, Aug. 16, at Fraternite Notre Dame Church, 502 N. Central, for prayer and breakfast. Groups receive assignments beginning at 7 a.m. and work until 5 p.m. Before the roughly 120 volunteers leave the church, a captain is chosen for each team. Lunches are provided at the site and dinner following the completion of work. For volunteer information for this year’s Labor of Love or to obtain an application for next year, contact Eyes on Austin: 773/479-1569.