Mr. Handyman comes in handy: Local company donates day of service to youth shelter

It may seem quiet on the tranquil, palm shaded grounds of Youth Haven, Collier County’s only 24-hour shelter for abused children, but inside Brownie Cottage, where most of the youth live, there’s a constant buzz of activity.

Between getting the kids to and from school safely each day, cooking meals for up to 23 kids with varying food allergies and dietary restrictions, making sure everyone’s homework gets done and keeping track of chores, laundry, doctor’s appointments and medicine for each child, getting to the big projects, like painting, is almost impossible.

Even with a fulltime maintenance guy, keeping the aging shelter running is a constant battle. So, when local handyman company, Mr. Handyman, offered a full day of free labor, the staff at Youth Haven were happy to put them to work.

“There are lots of worthy causes in Naples of course,” said Jay Gravel, owner of the local Mr. Handyman franchise, adding, “but the work they do here with the children is so unique; it’s a pleasure to be able to work for them today.”

The company, which each year holds a company-wide day of service, offers everything from basic carpentry to painting and power washing services to their clients.

“We do all those things on your ‘honey-do’ list,” said Gravel.

And as of Friday evening, shelter coordinator Jason Woodard’s “to do” list was significantly shorter.

Inside the shelter a new “refocus” room took shape as two workers from the company got down to business. The room, which was originally Woodard’s office, will soon be a space kids can use to blow off steam when they’re feeling upset or angry.

“We hope to put some carpeting on the walls and have Velcro balls the kids can throw at the walls and beanbags they can toss when they’re feeling upset,” described Woodard.

Terry Houston, a senior technician for Mr. Handyman, worked to install windows in the double doors that will lead into the refocus room, a crucial detail so that staff can keep an eye on the children without having to disturb them.

And because the windows being installed in the doors were of a special acrylic impact-resistant variety, it would have been a completely custom job — which, in handyman terms, loosely translates to expensive.

All together, company owner Gravel estimated that the two workers would do between $1,400 and $1,500 worth of work. And, while Gravel donated all the materials and supplies for Friday’s projects, he was quick to point out that the real credit belonged to his two employees who were working the day without pay. But for technicians Terry Houston and Joe Cass, who toiled in Friday’s late summer heat, deciding to donate their time was an easy decision.

Cass, who pressure washed all the sidewalks throughout the sprawling campus said, “Anything that let’s these guys not have to do something as dumb as power washing, so they can work on doing better things, is worth it.”

Colleague Houston added, “Anything for kids I’m always onboard for, whatever they need done, just let us know and we’ll do it.”

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