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Partnership in Willmar, Minn., repairs exteriors of homes

Jeremy Imdieke cuts a foundation shield Saturday for a home in Lake Lillian. Imdieke is part of a work crew of volunteers involved with the Brush With Kindness program. The crew performed repairs to a home belonging to a single, elderly woman who has a physical disability. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

LAKE LILLIAN -- As summer kicks into full gear, Habitat for Humanity will start fixing up the exterior of eight area homes through its A Brush With Kindness program.

A Brush With Kindness' first exterior repair for the summer took place this weekend at the home of a Lake Lillian resident. The Habitat for Humanity program partnered with Thrivent Financial for Lutherans' Thrivent Builds Repairs program and NeXt, a young professionals' community organization through the Willmar Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce, to complete the repair.

The home that was repaired belongs to a single, elderly woman with a physical disability, said Jessica Bruck, coordinator of A Brush With Kindness.

"She had been working on the house as much as she was able, but it had been overwhelming her for some time," Bruck said. "She was incredibly grateful for our repairs."

Repairs done to the home included foundation work, landscaping, building a front porch and putting in new front and back entrances. Andy Boersma, financial associate with Thrivent Financial and coordinator of Thrivent Builds Repairs, said the project cost between $2,500 to $5,000.

The Habitat for Humanity and Thrivent Financial partnership comes from the part of Thrivent's mission to give back to the community.

"The purpose of Thrivent Builds Repairs is to go out into the community and find a home that needs exterior work done on it," Boersma said. "We partner with Habitat for Humanity, and Thrivent pays for the project while Habitat coordinates it."

Bruck said the purpose of the A Brush With Kindness program is to preserve existing homes.

"Habitat for Humanity's purpose is neighborhood revitalization and expanding affordable housing," Bruck said. "Previously, Habitat solely built new houses, but the need isn't always for new houses. Sometimes it's to expand the existing housing stock."

A Brush With Kindness is one of the newest programs Habitat for Humanity of West Central Minnesota offers. It has the same application model as the original program, but it brings opportunities for other volunteers. This repair project brought in 15 volunteers from NeXt.

"The nice part of it is we can get volunteers who wouldn't normally be involved with a build, since they take so many months," Bruck said. "With this repair, we got almost the entire project finished in one day."

While the concept of repairing the exterior of homes isn't new for Boersma and Thrivent Financial, Boersma said he tries to plan several repair projects throughout the year. He said the Thrivent Builds Repairs program put approximately $230,000 back into Kandiyohi County in 2012.

"When you see the smile on her face, and know you're making her home look a lot better, it's a neat event to be a part of," Boersma said.