In times of need, people come together and in the City of Scottsdale, that idea is embodied as Operation Fix It.
“Ironically, Operation Fix It was founded at a time when our economy was in poor shape, in 2009,” said Scottsdale Operation Fix It Program Manager Michelle Holmes.
“We had several foreclosed properties, people walking away from their homes and there were homeowners struggling to make ends meet. The City of Scottsdale had no services available to help. At the time, I worked in code enforcement as an officer enforcing all of our city codes and ordinances.”
On the precipice of dire straits, Operation Fix It can become a community conduit for helping a fellow neighbor in need, Ms. Holmes explains.
“To date, Operation Fix It provides free assistance to low-income, qualifying homeowners, with exterior improvement to the property, by way of our incredible volunteers and financial donations,” Ms. Holmes says of the bones of the outreach program. “Our major goals are to raise awareness, help those in need, and create valuable community partnerships.”
Operation Fix It --- a 501(c)3 nonprofit --- is not a city-funded enterprise but offers a link to exterior improvements of properties in need where oftentimes senior residents cannot complete repairs due to both physical and financial constraints, Ms. Holmes explains.
For Ms. Holmes, however, the program grew from a need she identified during her time with Code Enforcement at the City of Scottsdale.
“I was spending a lot of time in court processing the citations, fines and liens for properties that failed to comply with our requirements,” she said.
“It could have been anything from a dead lawn to a blighted home that needed to be repainted. Of course, the enforcement actions rarely helped gain compliance, but usually added a financial burden to an already poor circumstance. This was when the program was developed.”
But as the old adage goes: it takes a village.
“There were enough citizens that simply wanted to help someone in need,” Ms. Holmes said of the old adage coming to life. “So, I solicited volunteers, provided the necessary equipment, tools and these incredibly selfless people came out to help their neighbors.”
City officials report typical assistance efforts include:
Many who participate in the program often find themselves in dire straits, Ms. Holmes explains.
“Our parents and family members shouldn’t have to decide if they are going to go without needed medication or food because they need their home painted or they need to hire a landscaper,” she said. “Through Operation Fix It, we do all we can to help them stay sustainable in their homes. And, it’s our community partners that help make us successful.”
--- Michele Holmes
All people deserve food, shelter and peace of mind, Ms. Holmes estimates, and the travails of need comes in every shade, she says.
“When people have never struggled, sometimes they have difficulty relating, but let me tell you: ‘I’ve seen all types of circumstances,’” she pointed.
“Some of my clients were the helpers and the givers and never imagined they’d find themselves on the other side. But at some point, we all experience struggle or difficult times. It can be due to financial constraints, an illness, an accident or a death and things change, just like that.”
And, without each other some might not make it through difficult circumstances and overcoming those situations is a keystone of the Operation Fix It effort, Ms. Holmes contends.
“I hear so often: ‘I never knew there were such kind people out there to help me. I’m so thankful, I just don’t know what I would have done without you all,’” she pointed out.
“It takes so very little to make such a huge impact on someone. Literally, in a few hours you donate your time, you’ve impacted this person by improving their home and you’ve also increased the property values in their neighborhood.”
For nearly 60 years the Scottsdale Charros have been in the constant pursuit of improving the lives of Scottsdale residents and honoring the community’s ties to its western heritage.
Turns out, Operation Fix It operates solely on public and private donations, Ms. Holmes explains.
“For example, the Charros financial contribution paid it forward for three lucky homeowners who otherwise would have been facing enforcement action,” she explained of most-recent projects. “Two are completed and the third is in process. The first two were very appreciative and love how fresh their homes look.”
In this current grant year, the Scottsdale Charros --- through The Charro Foundation --- provided Operation Fix It with a $6,000 grant to shoulder costs of the annual Paint-A-Thon program where seniors and low-income families are able to get a fresh coat of paint.
“Like I mentioned, the program is donation funded and many services we provide come at a cost,” Ms. Holmes said. “Painting a home can be pricey; especially if the homeowner didn’t have the funds to stay on top of the maintenance. I have a backlog of applicants who have requested assistance for house painting and repair.”
While Ms. Holmes admits Operation Fix It operates a shoestring budget --- about $25,000 on an annual basis --- she confirms the needs of Scottsdale residents are not unique in a time of need.
“The needs of our Scottsdale residents are no different than those in our surrounding cities,” she said. “I’ve worked for this city for 25 years and we have always provided our residents with the best services possible. When our residents need help, especially our elderly --- we need to be there for them.”
--- Michele Holmes
Scottsdale Charro Brad Douglass agrees taking care of each other now is more paramount than it has ever been before.
“This program has great long term potential to bring volunteers together to help ensure Scottsdale remains the first-class community it has always been,” he said.
“This is a great opportunity to help those in need of home repairs that are unable to fix on their own. The Paint-A-Thon gives volunteers of all ages a chance to make a real tangible impact on their local community.”
Mr. Douglass, who has participated personally in Operation Fix It programs aligns well with the mission of the Scottsdale Charros.
“I have participated in Operation Fix IT and feel the impact falls in line with The Scottsdale Charros mission to support the greater community,” he said.
Go to scottsdaleaz.gov/operation-fix-it.