Construction workers, power tools, cans of paint, sawhorses and the associated noise and debris may now fill the house on Lincoln Highway in Coatesville, but when the dust clears and the final tile is put into place, the building will become home to six pre-senior women in need between the ages of 55 and 62.
The Catherine Twomey House is currently being renovated by Home of the Sparrow, a nonprofit organization that provides housing and support services to homeless and low-income women and their children. Home of the Sparrow also maintains a transitional housing facility in West Chester.
Home of the Sparrow volunteer Patricia Walsh donated the building to the agency. It is named after her husband's aunt.
"Patricia is a volunteer who worked with us for the last two years. Every two weeks we have dinners for our clients after their house meetings. Mrs. Walsh provided those dinners so that the mothers and children could have a nice meal together," explained Patricia McLennan, chief executive officer of Home of the Sparrow. "She got interested in the agency and one night she sent an email to Carolyn (McKenna, director of development) saying that she wanted to buy us a house. She said she was looking at various agencies, and she wanted to know what we would do if we (acquired) the house."
The agency presented two ideas for the home - a residence for single moms and children, as well as a home for older single women. The proposal noted that many government benefits for women do not begin until they reach age 62.
Walsh chose the latter option. "Aunt Catherine began her career in World War II as an Army nurse and then when the war was over, she joined the public health system and she wound up as a director of nursing at several hospitals," Walsh said. "As I pondered which (project) I wanted to do, I kept thinking of Aunt Catherine. She wasn't homeless and had an education and supported herself all her life, but she was single. I wasn't aware of the issue of the senior woman who found herself homeless."
Renovations to the home began in 2015, with a projected completion date of June 2016. Local volunteers have been working at the home under the guidance of project manager Jim Brazill of JMB Custom Renovations. The home was constructed in 1919, but the single-family home was later made into apartments.
"It's got beautiful bones, and it will be a great location when it's done," Walsh said.
The home will include four one-room units and one two-bedroom unit. Each apartment will have its own bathroom. There will also be a laundry on-site, as well as common areas including a coffee/reading area. "We don't want them isolated in their apartments alone," Walsh added, noting clients may also use the common areas to meet with their social workers or they may enjoy the home's large front porch, which will be equipped with ceiling fans and rocking chairs.
Because of the house's location on Business Route 30, the home has direct access to transportation, health care and grocery stores. "I was pleased to be in the position to (donate a house) and have a contactor I trust. I am thrilled to be able to honor John's aunt," Walsh said. "She was a fine woman and very modest, and she did good work. She was the best woman I ever knew. We will have picture her in the vestibule."
Those who would like to volunteer their time to help with the renovations and those who would like to donate professional services or building supplies are asked to email cmckenna@Homeofthesparrow.org. More information about the project is available at http://www.homeofthesparrow.org.