By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Chester County is one of the wealthiest counties in Pennsylvania, with the median income reported above $84,000.

But on the outskirts of towns, and in some cases, right in heart of the community, poverty is alive and well.

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“Anyone of us is one bad decision, one mistake, one injury away from being in the same situation as many of the families we serve,” says Bob Beggs, Executive Director of Good Works, Inc., which is headquartered in Coatesville.

Bob Beggs, Executive Director of Good Works (credit: Cherri Gregg)

Bob Beggs, Executive Director of Good Works (credit: Cherri Gregg)

Founded in 1988, Good Works is a Christian ministry that provides home repairs and renovations to more than 200 low-income Chester County families each year, for free.

“Our goal is the make the place safe and secure and a place that has some dignity,” says Beggs.

To apply for the service, Good Works requires that individuals live within 200% of the federal poverty line, own their homes, and be up to date on taxes.

The service includes a total home inspection, which could include repairs as extensive as a total renovation, or as minor as new flooring, drywall, or minor electrical fix.

“It’s not an inexpensive thing to do,” says Beggs, who notes that the average cost of repair is $9,000. In fact, the annual budget is $1.2 million a year- funded through government grants, corporate and in-kind donations, fundraising efforts, and discounted material and free labor.

In 2016, Beggs says the non-profit assisted 200 families. In Coatesville, a city that’s roughly 45% African American, the wait is two years.

In Phoenixville the wait is six months. However, Beggs says Good Works will provide free fixes to triage dangerous situations.

“If they call and say they have no heat, our pipes are broken,” he says, “we’ll send someone to fix that- and then they’ll go to the back of the line.”

The work the non-profit does keeps people in their homes. In recent years, they’ve taken to repairing mobile homes as well. Last year, 38% of those served by Good Works lived in mobile parks.

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“[Mobile homes] are very difficult [to repair] because they were never meant to be lived in as long as they are being lived in,” says Beggs, noting that mobile home repairs are extremely difficult.

Good Works completes repairs using about 1600 volunteers each year, including retired plumbers, electricians, and carpenters.

Good Works Volunteers praying with home repair recipient. (provided by Good Works)

Good Works Volunteers praying with home repair recipient. (provided by Good Works)

Beggs says the majority of the volunteers come from local churches, corporate partners, and teen summer camps– but most are from the community where homeowners live.

“The real life change comes from the relationships that we build with the families we serve,” says Beggs, who started at Good Works as a volunteer. He came on full time as the non-profit’s executive a couple of years ago after a long and successful career at Boeing.

“God’s purpose in my life was to do exactly this,” he says.

In addition to volunteers, Good Works sends an ambassador to each home. Their job is to administer to the homeowner and to make them feel relaxed as strangers rip up floors, tear out walls, and implement much needed repairs.

“Our being welcomed into a home to do the work is a chance for us to administer to a bunch of their needs,” he says, “we try to connect folks to services they need.”

Beggs says Good Works wants to expand into other counties to expand their reach and their ministry; changing the game one home repair at a time.

“We’re just so humble that people let us into their homes in the first place,” says Beggs, “it’s an amazing thing.”

For more on Good Works, Inc., go to http://www.goodworksinc.org/.

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