Staff photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press - Bob Neely, right, coordinator of Neighborhood Helpers, works with other members to build a wheelchair ramp for a home in Hixson. Working underneath the ramp is Glenn Leming, while Rick Nunley, Sam Petty, Nelson Bennett and Bill Schmid, from left, help hold the ramp in place. The interdenominational Christian group makes home repairs and builds wheelchair ramps for people in need in the North Hamilton County area
Often, they have lived lives of service, helping friends, neighbors and family members without being asked.
Years go by, and situations can change. When living on a fixed income, living alone or living with a devastating accident or disease, everyday maintenance of a home can become suddenly impossible.
"It's somewhat embarrassing in a way, I think, to all of us" to have to ask for help, said Bob Neely, coordinator of Neighborhood Helpers Volunteer Ministry of Soddy-Daisy. "It's amazing how bad a condition somebody will be in and nobody knows it. Neighbors, relatives, whatever. We get so busy, we don't look around us."
Neighborhood Helpers is an interdenominational, nonprofit volunteer ministry that works to remedy this type of situation.
"We don't belong to any particular church. We ask people that want to volunteer just to have a heart that they want to do it with," said Neely. "The pay is rather cheap, but the blessings are many."
The group is comprised mostly of retired men "with wives that want to get us out of the house," Neely said.
Neighborhood Helpers works with churches in the Soddy-Daisy, Hixson and North Hamilton County areas, and also with Senior Neighbors of Soddy-Daisy, to identify people who need their services.
"We feel like the Lord provides us with our leads, one way or the other," Neely said, "as well as our volunteers and also even the funding."
Through a screening process, they accept jobs when a person on a fixed income needs a repair or has a job he cannot afford, "whatever needs to be done to make the house warm, safe, livable," Neely said.
Neely would love to see others take up the idea.
"It's a wonderful outreach for a church," he said. "There's nothing proprietary about it. We would be glad to help anybody in a community try to get theirs off the ground."
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John Rawlston is a staff photographer with the Chattanooga Times Free Press, where he has worked since the merger of Chattanooga’s two daily newspapers in 1999. He worked as a staff photographer for the Chattanooga News-Free Press (later the Chattanooga Free Press) starting in 1976. Prior to that, he worked for a year as a sportswriter for the Cleveland Daily Banner in Cleveland, Tenn. John graduated from Soddy Daisy High School in 1971. He graduated ...