On Friday, September 21 and Saturday, September 22, a community service bubble surrounded the home of Chuck and Olga Finnegan of New Fairfield. In a single weekend, nearly every interior room and outer portions of the home were improved.
The Finnegan’s, who bought the home in 1967, were granted the project by HomeFront, a Stamford-based home repair philanthropic program that is funded in part by The Home Depot Foundation. The work was carried out in conjunction with St. Edward’s parishioners, Rebels Care members, and students from New Fairfield High School and Western Connecticut State University. In all, nearly 60 people spent at least a portion of the two days hard at work at the home, many from dawn to dusk.
There was no question that something special was going on at the Finnegan’s Barnum Road residence, with dozens of cars lining the streets, and a large ‘Homefront’ sign near the driveway. A hive of activity, the home was covered with happy volunteers, listening to classic rock as they replaced one wall of the exterior siding, sanded the porch to ready it for re-staining, painted ceilings and walls inside, tackled heavy yard work, and more. The smiling crew was led by New Fairfield residents and Rebels Care leaders, Debbie Blum and Doris McDermott. The two would orchestrate a remarkable amount of work over the two days including replacing nearly all of the home’s windows, the entry and storm door, a tremendous amount of siding and trim repairs, and cleaning and painting the home, inside and out.
Homeowner Chuck Finnegan, a 90-year-old Korean War veteran, spent the better part of the morning in his TV room and explained that though he was grateful, he was more than a little “overwhelmed.” With his wife and social planner, Olga, recovering from a recent hospital visit at their daughter’s home, he was a little lost among the sea of home-repair volunteers. He had heard about the upcoming home repair projects but hadn’t realized that the dates had been set until very recently. Though, in midst of all the chaos, he did admit that Friday night, with the home having been scrubbed down and new windows in place, was “one of the best nights of sleep” he has had in his life.
Having lived in town for over 50 years, Finnegan said, “I love New Fairfield, it’s a storybook town to me. I love my house. I love my property.” He said that his greatest happiness is to sit with Olga in the backyard with a view of their apple tree. Sharp as a tack, Finnegan told joke after joke to the backdrop of nailing and workers busy outside the TV room’s window.
The Finnegan’s home was the 30th veteran home repair project that HomeFront has undertaken, and the second project that Saint Edward’s, through Rebels Care, has joined in on this year.
HomeFront’s mission is to improve “quality of life through substantial repairs completed at no cost” to the homeowners. Rebels Care member, Bill McDermott, explained the group works throughout the year, from large projects such as the Finnegan home to manning crews of good Samaritan snow shoveling for seniors, fall clean-up projects, and more. For more information on volunteering for projects such as these, go to Rebelscare.org.
By Sarah Opdahl