Loren Fabretto was still smiling ear-to-ear, an hour after first seeing her transformed bedroom in an Egg Harbor Township group home run by the Arc of Atlantic County.
"I love it," she kept saying. "I love it!"
A crew of about 25 volunteers from Keller Williams Realty Jersey Shore spent May 10 painting all the rooms in the six-bedroom, three-bathroom home and redecorating the bedrooms with new bedding, artwork and accessories. The real estate group, which entered the Jersey Shore market in the last few years, closed its three Cape May County offices for the day to concentrate on transforming the home in the manner of such TV shows as "While You Were Out."
It was the largest single-day volunteer project ever undertaken on behalf of Arc group home clients, said Arc Development and Communications Associate Beth Ann Spiegel.
Residential Assistant Sara Washington said the experience energized Loren. "I never saw her move so fast," she said as Loren ran back and forth, leading visitors to her room, redecorated with a new comforter and accessories in her favorite color - purple.
The home's six residents, who all spent the day elsewhere and came home to their new surroundings, are among the 700 people with intellectual or developmental disabilities served annually by the nonprofit Arc of Atlantic County.
Keller Williams real estate agent Jill Perry-Zaborowski, of Margate, said each resident was asked what colors and themes they would like.
For Chris Hubbs the choice was easy - he's a Star Wars fanatic. But the five women living in the house were more interested in their favorite colors, ranging from neutral and natural, to pink and red, and Loren's purple. Some rooms had no pictures on the wall, and in other rooms there was a need for organizing and storage items, said Perry-Zaborowski.
She and husband Jack, another Keller Williams agent, volunteer for the Arc as golf buddies. They brought their 12-year-old daughter Jacklynn Perry to help paint and decorate. Jacklynn got permission from the Tighe School to miss the day, and spend it volunteering, her mom said.
Keller Williams team leader and CEO Michelle Bush, of Wildwood Crest, brought her son David, 13. He's homeschooled through Pennsylvania Cyber School, she said. David painted the walls in a bathroom, while his mom did the trim work.
Perry-Zaborowski and co-workers Laura Mansor, of Wildwood Crest; and Joanne Bernardini, Ocean City, did the shopping for the residents, with funds raised by Keller Williams. Bernardini suggested Arc of Atlantic County for the effort this year, she said, because she has been involved as a volunteer for years. She helps with the Arc Artists program, in which Arc clients take art lessons through the Ocean City Fine Arts League.
The Fernwood Avenue home is one of nine group homes run by Arc of Atlantic County, which also runs 26 supervised apartments and a number of condominiums for clients, said Arc of Atlantic County CFO Jill Lemon.
Lemon said the group homes get governmental and other funding for daily care for residents, and for big items like fixing heating systems. But there is little funding for cosmetic improvements like painting and decorating, she said. All of the maintenance work for Atlantic County Arc properties is handled by a three-person maintenance crew, so volunteer help is particularly appreciated, Lemon said.
Keller Williams Realtor Larry Cech, of Lower Township, said the effort is part of Red Day, in which all Keller Williams offices participate. It stands for "Renew, Energize and Donate," Cech said. About 35,000 associates were expected to participate in "Give Where You Live" events worldwide. Last year the local Keller Williams offices helped rehabilitate the Free Meal Center in Burleigh, Middle Township. That nonprofit has not been able to purchase the building, however, so is not yet serving the public.
Other groups have helped spruce up the Fernwood Avenue group home. Recently, Shore Fellowship Church in Egg Harbor Township sent a volunteer crew to rake leaves, Spiegel said. But there is still much to be done - from powerwashing the house's deck and cleaning gutters, to installing new carpet and other flooring. Groups or individuals who would like to help can call Arc Volunteer Coordinator Jen Rowles at 609-485-0800.
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