AUSTIN (KXAN) — A local group of handy musicians is lifting loads from seniors’ shoulders in the community, one repair at a time.
The HandyBand Collective helps these musicians find work during the pandemic, turning them into handy workers. Since its inception last December, they’ve latched onto a new sponsored project called “Deliver Some Love” to help aging adults with their aging homes.
One of the first houses the team fixed belonged to Roslynn Hopkins.
Hopkins, 63, currently lives with her brother in the same east Austin home where she was born. She has lived there most of her life. The house was passed down from her grandparents to her parents and now her.
Her home was in serious need of repair.
True Lawton, owner of HandyBand, and his team fixed doors that couldn’t close or latch, replaced missing keys, made safety repairs like fixing flooring that felt like you’d fall through, as well as did cosmetic work like patching holes in walls.
“Things that people live with because they don’t know how they’re gonna come up with the money to fix it,” Lawton said.
The repairs were transformative for Hopkins, who says the past year has shaken her faith.
“Society had gotten to a place where everybody’s just so cold, and what seems to be people not caring,” she said. “They have no idea how they lifted me out of a heavy place where you’re wondering how am I gonna get this repaired, how am I gonna get that fixed. Even a new coat of paint lightens the atmosphere — the whole atmosphere. So, god bless these guys right here cause I’m telling you they have really lifted my spirit.
“If we can do it, one person at a time, then we can make an impact.”
Helping seniors beyond repairs
Global home care provider, Home Instead, is sponsoring the “Deliver Some Love” initiative. With its funding, HandyBand is able to do repairs for free, but each wants to go beyond that.
Elijah May is a managing partner of The Experience Firm. Home Instead asked them to come up with an experience to care for aging adults who might be isolated or not have all the resources needed to stay safe and comfortable. The provider focuses on relationship-based home care. An important motive for the company is to eradicate “social isolation and loneliness in aging adults.”
So, May and the HandyBand Collective made it their purpose to spend time and connect with the seniors during each repair.
Hopkins knows many seniors around her age and older — some of whom lost their spouses. Through them, she has seen the importance of not feeling alone and having someone who cares. To her, this help gives a priceless, personal touch.
“Every step of the way, they were doing special little things to make you feel special or important. To me, it represented a hug. It’s something we haven’t had, right? We been told to stay away from each other and so, you try to figure out, how can you get that hug feeling? And I tell you, these guys brought that hug feeling back and I feel so hugged and loved by them,” Hopkins said.
“We live in a very big town that’s only getting bigger. It’s challenging to meet your neighbors that are right next to you,” Lawton said. “When I make a real connection with somebody, my life gets better. I got to see Ros’s family every day… and by the end of the week, Roslynn and I were sharing recipes and she made chicken tortilla soup for the crew.”
“It also trickles down cause it makes you want to go do something good or nice for somebody else. So, it keeps you with a purpose to live, it keeps you with a purpose to just keep going,” Hopkins said.
Lawton’s team takes extra safety precautions to engage the seniors, consulting with a top-notch team of medical professionals at the Central Texas Allied Health Institute. They’re supplied with carefully selected PPE to help keep everyone safe.
Hopkins had a vision for her kitchen when Lawton started repairing her home, but it was crushed when she couldn’t find a certain item.
“I couldn’t find the little sunflower knobs, and so what I thought was just a conversation, they surprised me with these sweet little sunflowers,” she said.
Lawton and May helped install the sunflower knobs Friday morning.
“I’ll never forget it. That will always be a reminder, to me, of their goodness. To go just one little special thing, they have done so much, again, to just lighten my load and to calm me down about needed repairs. But to go that extra little mile… When I step in that kitchen, to feel lighter, feel happy, regardless of what’s going on — that can be a place of sunlight.”
The response warmed Lawton’s heart.
“You could tell it was the thing that was supposed to tie the entire room together,” Lawton said. “I found them and I didn’t even expect her to be that excited about it, but it was awesome to see her hold them, hold them up and have a big response. I don’t know, that’s the smallest part of our project, but it felt like it made the biggest difference.”
IN-DEPTH: Home repairs a very real life obstacle for seniors
Home repairs are burdening life decisions that seniors face and can have dire consequences if left untouched — both inside the home and outside.
“As I think about people aging, I just describe it dying on the vine — you’re still a part of society but kind of forgotten. And so many seniors need help, need just that little extra help. By that time, you’re on a set income. It’s hard,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins shared her perspective as a senior living in east Austin, which is experiencing gentrification.
“Lot of times, especially with the changes in the neighborhood, we get out in a place where taxes are very high and you have to almost make a decision on do I pay the taxes and keep my home or do I try to keep my home from falling down?” she said. “Programs like this and people like this are what we need to just stay afloat.”
“To hear that somebody is having to make a choice between being able to lock their doors and paying the taxes so they don’t lose their house, I don’t know anything else to do but run to that problem,” Lawton said.
May and Lawton hope to give the initiative to help more seniors like Hopkins. You can nominate a senior or donate to the cause on the Deliver Some Love website.
HandyBand Collective is actively seeking experienced carpenters, electricians, painters, plumbers and more with any music background. He hopes some can be teachers or mentors on the more than 100 jobs he has waiting to be booked. You can learn more and apply on the collective’s website.