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Out-of-state group bringing 8 Days of Hope to homes in need of repair

Thomas O'Neil-White

Doris Cummins Ford is a former military intelligence officer who left Buffalo after high school. She returned in 2007 and bought a house on Highgate Avenue in the University District.

Now in her 80s, it is difficult for Ford to do work on her house. She recalls the circumstances in which a hole developed on her roof.

“One winter storm, spring storm about three years ago put a little hole in my roof,” she said. "I tried to get help and then by the time I’ve been trying to talk to all of these people, it’s turned into a horrendous problem.”

On Tuesday, roofers above her were laying down new tile, but they were not your average roofers.

8 Days of Hope is a Mississippi-based nonprofit organization that repairs homes in areas devastated by natural disasters. They recently created a hub in Buffalo to serve areas in the northeast and western Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Credit Thomas O'Neil-White
Volunteers build a wheelchair ramp.

But for eight days in the middle of the July, they, along with upwards of 1,600 volunteers, are repairing homes in the City of Buffalo.

“This year we’re in the University District for eight days with these volunteers from 33 states, loving and serving these families,” said 8 Days Founder Steve Tybor. “Next year we will go another district and the year after, another one as well.”

Born and raised in Buffalo, Tybor has brought together local churches and businesses to get this project moving. M&T Bank is their biggest sponsor.

The sun shines down on crews as they work on houses along Highgate Avenue. At the corner of Highgate and Suffolk, a ramp is being built for the wheelchair-bound homeowner. Down the street, crews are retiling a roof on one house while another group scrapes paint from another. Job leader Curtis Conerly came from New Orleans to help.

Credit Thomas O'Neil-White
Curtis Conerly at left.

“We’re going to scrape the house and we’re going to prime it,” said Conerly. “Everything that’s been scraped. We’ll prime to get it prepped. So we’re kind of like the prep crew and then another crew will come in and they’ll do all the painting work.”

Conerly said meeting people in the neighborhood was similar to getting together with family. He said he was amazed at the love and positive response the group of volunteers have received.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Thomas moved to Western New York at the age of 14. A graduate of Buffalo State College, he majored in Communications Studies and was part of the sports staff for WBNY. When not following his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats and Boston Red Sox, Thomas enjoys coaching youth basketball, reading Tolkien novels and seeing live music.
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