It was a hot and sunny Saturday morning in Oak Cliff, not the kind of morning anyone would like to be outside digging up concrete, but the firefighters of the Christian Firefighters Association are not just anyone. About a dozen men and women from across the city generously volunteered their time to help with several home improvement projects at Jacob’s House.
Jacob’s House is a City of Dallas licensed boarding house run by The Well Community. Eight men who deal with chronic mental illness live in the house, which offers a home to those who might otherwise be homeless.
The two-story house sits within walking distance of the local coffee shops, restaurants and boutique stores along Davis Street and Bishop Arts District. The building, with a pale yellow façade surrounded by leafy magnolia trees, shows its age. As with any older home, there are a number of repairs needing attention.
Suzanne Braddick, President of the Christian Firefighters Association and DFR Senior Fire Prevention Officer, and the other volunteers recognize they are repairing more than a building; they are helping to repair lives. “They need a lot of help here,” says Braddick.
She stood in the driveway of the house watching as several firefighters dressed in blue broke up the concrete sidewalk with shovels. By the end of the day, they would build a Federal Drug Administration-approved wheelchair ramp for residents and visitors to safely enter and exit the house.
The wheelchair ramp is one of several home improvement projects the association is carrying out for Jacob’s House. Earlier in the month, a group of firefighters cut down several overgrown trees and repaired and painted the iron fence that surrounds the house. The association will soon paint the inside of the house as well.
Why Jacob’s House
Braddick is also a part of the Kessler Park United Methodist Church volunteer group serving Well members at Thursday Night Life. So, when she learned about the need for home improvement at Jacob’s House, it was easy for her to suggest it to the Christian Firefighters Association.
“It’s good to do this where you live,” she says. Many of the firefighters see members of The Well when these members are having difficult episodes stemming from mental illness. This is a way to make things better for them, Braddick explains.
Captain Charlie Salazor, a battalion chief who volunteered with several firefighters from his battalion that day, pointed out that volunteering is in the makeup of most firefighters. “Most are public servants,” he says. “They have it in their DNA makeup. They do this stuff because it’s inherent.”
While Salazor watched several firefighters lift heavy chunks of concrete out of the yard, several residents of Jacob’s House also looked on from the front porch. Matthew, a resident who suffers from a dual diagnosis of alcoholism and bipolar disorder, pointed out that the ramp will have huge benefits to anyone in a wheelchair entering or exiting the house. “They won’t have to struggle,” he says.
Which is exactly why these firefighters volunteered their time. “It’s ours,” says Braddick about Jacob’s House. These people are delicate with difficult lives, and “this is a way to make things better for them.”
Want to donate or serve?
The Well Community is always looking for volunteers to serve its members, either through helping at a variety of events or providing financial aid. Think you might be interested? Don’t hesitate to call or email! We would love to answer your questions and find the best way for you to use your unique gifts.