MONROE, CT — When benches on Monroe Congregational Church’s green fell into disrepair, Frank Bent, of Monroe, enlisted the help of the nonprofit, WestBridge Inc. and worked with its group of volunteers to repair the seating Saturday morning.
“The benches were rotting and we replaced the wood,” he explained.
Two benches on the side of the green bordering Fan Hill Road were finished by late morning and the men walked across the green to the Monroe Turnpike side to repair two more.
Bent said he heard about WestBridge Inc. through fellow town resident Phil Lindstrom, who is a volunteer. Dick Steinfeld, of Stratford, is the president.
Based in Stratford, WestBridge Inc. was established in 2008. Its volunteers help homeowners, churches and charitable organizations in financial need with repairs.
Repairs include replacing toilets, faucets, gutters stairs, railings, doors, windows, countertops, cabinets and tile.
The group also widens halls and doorways for wheelchairs and constructs handicap ramps.
The labor and materials are free. WestBridge pays for everything through donations it receives from churches and individuals, according to Steinfeld.
“We’re all retired,” said Fran Degnan, of Monroe. “We all used to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity.”
Fred Rottjer, of Monroe, used to be a project manager for Habitat.
On Saturday, Bent, Steinfeld, Degnan and Rottjer worked with Anthony Denicso of Wallingford and Bob Stillson of Fairfield.
Degnan said they mostly help senior citizens. “They’re often in wheelchairs and need to make their bathrooms handicapped accessible,” he added.
Steinfeld said they have built ramps for amputees. “I can’t tell you the number of ramps,” Rottjer said.
WestBridge does jobs in Fairfield County, north of Norwalk to Stratford and Monroe, and occasionally Derby, so some projects are in New Haven County.
“At least 70 percent of our projects are in Bridgeport,” Steinfeld said.
Referrals come from the social services departments in municipalities, the Department of Aging, the Stratford Visiting Nurses Association and recommendations from homeowners WestBridge helped.
For those who need work done and desire confidentiality, Steinfeld recommends going through social services.
“You have to be a homeowner and have to have homeowner’s insurance,” he said.
The program is needs based, so potential clients must be vetted. Rottjer said WestBridge generally follows U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requirements.
“We’re happy to help people who really need help,” Rottjer said.
Among the organizations WestBridge has helped, its volunteers rebuilt shelving for the Monroe Food Pantry, and repaired the front steps and roof of Monroe Congregational Church, as well as the back steps of its parsonage.
Aside from donations, WestBridge Inc. is always looking for new volunteers. According to its website:
Individual volunteers come from varied backgrounds including carpenters, builders, business owners, executives, attorneys, police officers, homemakers and retirees.
The one thing they share in common is the desire to help those in need of their assistance, and the fun they have in working together. The joy, energy and giving spirit that they bring to their projects provides WestBridge clients with more than just repairs to their home.
To use the service or become a volunteer, call Dick Steinfeld at 203-331-2730 or email him at [email protected].
To donate, make checks payable to WestBridge, Inc. and mail it to: WestBridge, Inc., c/o Richard Steinfeld, 233A Boxelder Lane, Stratford, CT 06614.
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