The cul-de-sac was parked full of cars, and the cozy ranch house beneath the big shade trees was abuzz with activity. On a splendid autumn day, 18 volunteers from Arch’s office in Greensboro went about their work with paint brushes, scrapers and ladders.
Mary Patterson, a retiree in her 60s, watched it all through eyes wet with tears of joy.
Because the work would not only make her home better — it would make Miss Mary’s life better.
That’s the goal for every project taken on by Community Housing Solutions (CHS), one of five grantee organizations chosen earlier this year to benefit from the newly formed Arch Group Foundation (AGF).
A Lasting Impact
With its annual budget of $1 million, the AGF donates to organizations that make a lasting impact on causes that matter to Arch and our employees.
And the work of CHS matters in the Greater Greensboro area. The group’s mission is simple enough: Make the homes they work on warmer, drier and safer for the people who live there, at no cost to the homeowners.
“We were created out of a coalition of a number of groups,” says Gene Brown, president and executive director of CHS. “The goal is to preserve homeownership in Guilford County for families who are low-income and cannot physically or financially do the work themselves.”
CHS doesn’t build new houses or apartments. Instead, the group seeks to restore hope and dignity to neighborhoods by repairing older, existing homes.
Homes like Miss Mary’s place, where she lives alone and could use a little help maintaining her independence.
You can’t tell from the outside, but the house needs work done in its crawl space, a leaky roof fixed and plumbing work in the bathroom.
“We want to make homes safer for older adults,” Brown says. “In this home, we’re putting in grab bars around the tub and shower, and we’re installing hand railings on the back porch and front steps. Falls are a real danger for older adults, and we always want to reduce that risk.
“We predominantly serve older adults and disabled homeowners, so we do a lot of accessibility modifications in addition to repairs. Our main focus is the repairs. We are able to meet homeowners’ needs by preserving their homes, and that can help them live longer. Especially older adults or people who are disabled, because the alternative is going into a nursing home down the road.”
Even before the AGF was born, Arch has been involved with CHS.
“We’ve had a great partnership, first with United Guaranty and then Arch,” Brown says. (Arch acquired United Guaranty in 2017.) “And it’s not only the funding piece of it, but when Arch volunteers come out, they come out in force. Not everyone’s bringing 15 or 20 volunteers to a job. And they’re willing to do whatever we ask.”
Arch executives have held seats on CHS’s board of directors from the get-go, and Michael Schmeiser, Arch MI President and CEO, currently serves.
“That input from Arch makes a difference,” Brown says. “And it’s a huge difference. Look, I don’t have corporate attorney or a legal staff, but folks at Arch have engaged if I have a legal question. Everyone at Arch has been generous in saying, ‘If there’s something we can do, we’ll do it.’”
Especially those volunteers. CHS had a small army of more than 800 volunteers in 2019 … then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the number dropped to 156 in 2020.
“In 2021 we saw our numbers go back up into the 600s, and a lot of that is because of Arch MI employees,” Brandberg says. “They were one of the few groups who would still come out and engage with us. A lot of corporations wouldn’t allow volunteering because they weren’t back in their offices. But Arch and some other groups were reaching out and saying, ‘Let us know how we can help.’
Arch volunteers came through for Miss Mary when she needed them.
And now the AGF can help CHS do even more good work that matters to folks just like her.
Arch employees pitch in on a Community Housing Solutions project. “When Arch volunteers come out,” CHS President Gene Brown says, “they come out in force.”