For the residents who reap the benefits of their donated labor and expertise, this ultra-dedicated group seems too good to be true. Yet LakewoodAlive’s most experienced team of volunteers is as real and genuine as they come.
Lakewood residents Aaron Cooper, Jeff Davis, Jim Hayes, Carl Orban, Dana Paul and Allison Urbanek comprise the all-star squad of volunteers known as the “A Team.” This team spends various weekends throughout the year tackling major volunteer housing projects on behalf of the LakewoodAlive Housing Outreach Program.
Although they vary in age (ranging from early-thirties to upper-sixties) and employment (ranging from corporate professionals to retirees), all six members of the A Team share two distinct traits: A general level of expertise with building projects and a strong desire to use their talents to help fellow community members in need.
“What we do is rewarding and fulfilling far beyond any possible monetary compensation,” said Dana, a construction project manager in his day job. “At the end of a work session, I’m exhausted but my spirit is uplifted. It’s a great group and there’s a really cool synergy that goes on between us.”
In Need of a New Porch
Lifelong Lakewood resident Pam Schraff knew she had a major problem. The front porch at the Lakewood Avenue home she’s occupied for 41 years had deteriorated to the point where it had become a safety hazard, both for Pam and her visitors.
Thanks to the leadership of Allison Urbanek – LakewoodAlive’s Housing & Internal Operations Director – the group took on this ambitious project. On six occasions between the scorching heat of July and the chill of December, the A Team convened at Pam’s home to complete an extensive porch repair that consisted of replacing flooring, constructing new porch steps, incorporating a new step railing and installing a new storm door.
“If it weren’t for the A Team, my world right now would be totally different,” said Pam, who lives two doors away from her childhood home and has spent her entire life living on Lakewood Avenue. “They’ve renewed my ability to come and go from my home, and in doing so enriched my life. I don’t think I can ever thank them enough.”
A Tremendous Community Impact
2018 proved a banner year for the A Team. In addition to rebuilding Pam’s porch, the group successfully reconstructed a garage roof for an elderly couple on Rosewood Avenue by laying new sheathing and reshingling the roof. This 1907 home on Rosewood has been within the owner’s family for nearly seven decades.
“These are projects that people normally can’t do themselves and would cost people a lot of money to hire someone,” said Jim, a retiree who discovered the A Team while exploring avenues for giving back to the community. “It’s often more difficult to rebuild existing infrastructure than it is to build something new, but we enjoy the challenge and enjoy each other’s company. I feel blessed to have gotten to know this group the last two years.”
In total, the A Team completed two major volunteer housing projects this year, accumulating 164 total volunteer hours and generating $12,000 worth of economic impact for low-moderate homeowners within our community. Project materials were funded through LakewoodAlive’s 80/20 Volunteer Project Supply Fund, whereby the homeowner pays 20 percent of the cost and LakewoodAlive covers the remaining 80 percent using funding provided by First Federal Lakewood.
Fun on the Job
Despite their heavy volunteer workload, members of the A Team always manage to incorporate fun into their altruistic work experiences. They recently celebrated their successful 2018 with a get-together during which year-end awards were bestowed:
- Golden Banana Award for best snack brought to a project: Jim Hayes
- Golden Nail Award for keeping everyone together: Carl Orban
- Golden Pencil Award for best design layout: Aaron Cooper
- Golden Hammer Award for leadership: Allison Urbanek
“Jim brought this awesome crockpot of chili to the last day of our project, so he definitely deserved the Golden Banana Award,” said Dana. “But in all seriousness, this group is a lot of fun to be around.”
Pam observed the A Team’s camaraderie and knack for fun throughout the porch rebuild project. At one point the group discovered an old grocery store sign underneath her porch and took time to investigate its historical significance. On another occasion they found a knot in a piece of wood and took time to consider how that would impact the porch over time.
“They get along so well and they all have a sense of humor,” said Pam. “It’s really a privilege to have received their help and I’ll be forever grateful to them.”
A Team Member Profiles
Name: Aaron Cooper
Lakewood Residence: French Avenue
Occupation: Mechanic – Division of Fleet
Name: Jeff Davis
Lakewood Residence: Carabel Avenue
Hometown: Rocky River
Occupation: Sales & Marketing
Name: Jim Hayes
Lakewood Residence: McKinley Place
Name: Carl Orban
Lakewood Residence: Lake Avenue
Name: Dana Paul
Lakewood Residence: Kenneth Drive
Occupation: Construction Project Manager
Name: Allison Urbanek
Lakewood Residence: Spring Garden Avenue
Hometown: North Olmsted
Occupation: LakewoodAlive Staff Member