Keeping Out the Cold

by Rebecca Hanlon

Habitat for Humanity of the Greater Harrisburg Area

If you stood next to the windows in George Wormley’s Harrisburg home, you used to be able to feel the breeze creep through the cracks. While unseasonably warm temperatures in early winter meant the old windows didn’t cause too many problems, the Navy veteran knew colder weather was on its way.

But it wasn’t just the windows that needed attention, he says. The stairs to the basement were unsafe, the gutters needed to be replaced and several other jobs – adding up to about $10,000 in materials alone – called out for repair.

Already working two jobs, Wormley knew his family couldn’t afford to get the work done on their own. But he wasn’t sure where to turn for help.

After several weeks of research, Wormley says, he found several willing hands that were ready to pick up the tools and bring the family some comfort.

Wormley qualified for help as part of Habitat for Humanity of the Greater Harrisburg Area’s Veteran Repair Corps program. To receive help through the program, candidates must have received an honorable or general discharge, must be a homeowner or living with a homeowner, be a resident of Dauphin County, have an income at or below 60 percent of the area median income and must present a need that could include safety, accessibility or energy efficiency.

For six weeks, Wormley worked alongside volunteers from Habitat for Humanity who helped make his home safe, comfortable and more affordable to live in thanks to better heat protection, he says.

“The military always had my back,” says Wormley, who served from 2000 to 2009. “When several of the people who came to my home were retired military members, it just touched my heart. These were my brothers and sisters. They were still looking out for me.”

For the nine years that Wormley gave to his country, he says, he felt that Habitat for Humanity gave back to him through its service. In addition to swapping military stories with volunteers, Wormley learned tips on how to keep up with home repairs to help retain the value of his home. Some of the volunteers even took the time during morning coffee breaks or Wormley’s generous homemade lunch hours to show him how to do things on his own.

“They told me to take honor in the things I have,” Wormley says. “And sometimes to remember that there’s no shame in the things I don’t have.”

When the work was finished, the relationships didn’t end, Wormley says. A bit of a foodie, Wormley invites the same volunteers back to his home for pig roasts and fish fries. He never expected those kinds of relationships to come out of the experience.

“The generosity of the community can surprise you,” he says. “I didn’t know if I would ever get around to making those home repairs – or being able to afford those repairs. I consider the people who helped us to be my friends. The warmer house is nice, but the warmth they brought to my heart means so much more.”