Hope Gardens is aptly named. This eight unit apartment community in Ambler north of Philadelphia is run and owned by Inter-Faith Housing Alliance, a non-profit that provides transitional housing – and hope – for low-income families with children. Since 2009, the year after he retired, Bob Allmond has been a volunteer maintenance worker for IHA, logging more than 1000 hours in the past five years alone keeping the apartments looking good and all systems go. Trained as an engineer, Bob was always handy, skills he learned from his dad, who was an industrial equipment mechanic. Besides doing fix-it projects, Bob has modernized IFH’s maintenance request process and serves on the property committee. Turns out retirement just wasn’t for him. Helping folks get back on their feet by providing them safe and comfortable housing is what makes this low-key septuagenarian feel very blessed.
What inspires you to volunteer?
I knew about the apartments because when they first opened them in the 80s, our church sponsored one of the units. So in between tenants we’d go in and refurbish for the next move in. When their regular maintenance guy left, they asked me if I’d be interested in the job. I said I’d do whatever I could, but I didn’t want to be paid. I guess I didn’t know how much time I’d be spending, but the work is very rewarding. I grew up mission minded because of church – so I’ve always looked for opportunities to serve people less fortunate. It feels good to give back.
Describe your volunteer role with Inter-Faith housing?
I do painting, some carpentry, tile, plumbing – whatever they need. There are three of us who do the work, we’re a good team. I like to take the time to talk to the tenants, who can be a little hesitant until they feel comfortable. I never ask personal questions, but over time people get to trust me. There have been tenants who’ve become friends – and I’d have never met them if I wasn’t volunteering. I don’t know who gets the bigger blessing, them or me.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?
I think being able to help these people with their housing problems. Whether there’s water pouring in from a sink or a door that doesn’t work right, being able to help folks who are struggling in life is the best. It takes one worry off their mind.
What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?
I’ve learned some about repairs, new things that I had never done before so that’s good. But really, I’ve found that I’m happier when I’m helping.
Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about?
Every year IFH holds a golf fundraiser and that will be coming up. My wife and I are fortunate to have a vacation place in north Myrtle Beach and we donate a week’s stay. That’s become the biggest moneymaker for the fundraiser, so we are thrilled about that.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
I believe in the golden rule and I’ve come up in a family that did the same. Our church – Grace Baptist Church of Bluebell, does a lot to help people when they’re in need. It’s really our responsibility to use our resources, what we’ve been blessed with, to make a difference in other people’s lives.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
You can use any kind of skill that you have to give back. You’ll learn a lot as a volunteer. And when you meet folks that may be very different from yourself, it’s an eye opener. You never know what a person has been through, how they ended up in a certain situation. All you can do is help.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Bob? Find local volunteer opportunities.