A (not so) Picturesque Farmhouse

Story by Finn Burns, serving with COVER Home Repair

Sleepy-Hollow-Farm-Woodstock-VermontAs I got in the car one Friday morning, I asked my supervisor where the day's weatherization project was. She replied, “An old farmhouse with many drafty windows.” That day, my morning had been subpar and I was not feeling too great, but I remember that when I heard we were going to an old farmhouse, I thought “Oh man, how cool! It probably has lots of history and maybe even some cool architecture!” So, I expressed my excitement out loud and my supervisor who is always positive just said “uh huh” *queue awkward silence. I have not been in New England very long, so when someone says ‘farmhouse’ my mind just assumes that all farmhouses are like the ones on postcards; I could not understand why my supervisor was not as excited as me.

When we pulled into the driveway, I understood. The house was very run down, the yellow paint was hardly detectable, and the yard was littered with beer cans and trash. We knocked on the door three times before someone answered; as the door opened, a strong waft of a rancid smell greeted us. The smell was a combination of rotten dairy and cigarette buds, not exactly what you would call an appetizing smell. The homeowner who answered was friendly enough and showed us which windows he wanted us to weatherize. We walked single file to the windows as the inside of the home was littered with trash as well. I could not fathom how anyone would want to live in such a place. I started to work on my first window and could barely get to it as it was behind a pile of trash and a table that had months-old food scraps on it. As I continued to work, I moved from window to window navigating through what felt like a junkyard, but smelled worse. I went to work on a window in the bathroom, as the homeowner began to work on one next to me. I started to ask him some questions as I was curious as to how he go into this situation. I had come to learn that he had some serious issues with his heart that kept him from doing his job as a plumber. The more we talked, the more I understood he had been very unlucky in life, and I felt guilty for judging him for the state of his house, as there are always two sides to a story. Although, the trash and the smell did not settle well with me, I continued to work and began to understand that this homeowner really needed our help.

Finn_AprilNewsletterAt first, I wished I wasn't there, but as the day went on, I realized how thankful I should be for the things I have and the opportunities I have been presented with. As a child, I took so many things for granted and it still surprised me how much perspective I have gained from these few months with AmeriCorps, especially this one weatherization project. The feeling I got from that day was similar to the feeling of a quality run. It may be painful during the run, but the feeling afterward is unrivaled by any; the harder the run, the better the feeling. Similarly, this weatherization was hard to do for the reasons I mentioned above, but the feeling that I had really made a difference in someone’s life was one of the best I have ever felt. AmeriCorps interested me because I wanted to make a difference, I felt as though I did for that homeowner, and I hope to do that for many other as I continue to serve.

*The farmhouse pictured above is: Sleepy Hollow Farm of Woodstock, VT. Photo belongs to: "What's your background?" Wordpress account.

**Bottom right photo of Finn Burns, VHCB AmeriCorps member, at a build site in Hartland, VT. Photo belongs to COVER Home Repair.

VHCB AmeriCorps is a program of the
Vermont Housing & Conservation Board.

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