Renovations at Vanity Fair Apartments are underway
HUNTINGTON -- A long-term project to renovate the 53 units at Vanity Fair Apartments is getting underway with a little help from friends around the city.
Volunteers from The Healing Place have started working on the second unit at Vanity Fair to get a complete makeover, and Dr. Ali Oliashirazi, chair of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Cabell Huntington Hospital, donated the needed $3,000 for a fifth apartment to be renovated.
Amanda Coleman, assistant director at Harmony House, said both the efforts of the volunteers and the monetary donations help Harmony House toward its goal of annually renovating at least 10 of the efficiency apartments at the Vanity Fair facility on 4th Avenue near the Cabell County Courthouse.
This is the second time the organization has had an Adopt-A-Room campaign for the 23-year-old facility. The first time was when the facility was still in the process of opening in the early 1990s when there was enough money to build it, but there was no money to furnish it.
Last year, Harmony House provided services to about 1,000 homeless individuals and families in the Huntington area in 2013, and provided 71 affordable housing units for the area's homeless, including the 53 in the Vanity Fair building.
Dr. Oliashirazi, chair of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Cabell Huntington Hospital, the program director of the residency program, director of the Joint Replacement Center at Cabell Huntington Hospital, and vice dean of business development for the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, stopped by Vanity Fair last week with Chad Fisher, administrator at Marshall Orthopedics, to drop off the check to Bob Hansen, executive director of Harmony House.
Oliashirazi, a new board member at the Coalition for the Homeless, said for several years, he and Fisher have been plugged into helping the Coaltion. They and the program's 15 resident physicians donate a small amount weekly (for dress-down Friday) to help pay for needed supplies at Harmony House.
When he heard about the need for apartment renovation, Dr. Oliashirazi said he didn't give it a second thought to join folks such as Ann Tao, Betty Barrette, First Presbyterian Church and the Houvouras family in donating the $3,000 for new flooring, wall and ceiling repairs, new appliances and new furniture.
"We all tend to think of extreme poverty as a third-world problem, but if you keep your eyes open it is right next door," Oliashirazi said. "Probably one of the best ways to change someone's trajectory of life is to give them a home base. We thought what better way to help out than to do this. To us, this is a no-brainer and for us we hope this would ignite many people in the medical profession to do the same."
Coleman said making the project even more meaningful has been who has been helping do the renovation work.
For the past three weeks, Matt Boggs, at The Healing Place, has been getting the men in that addiction recovery center to come and volunteer to help Vanity Fair's maintenance supervisor, Russ Gothan, with the work.
Helping out at Vanity Fair for the past three weeks have been Johnny Self, Dustin Wood, Wes Camp, Charlie Thompson, Justin Clark, Ben Childers and Roy Morris.
"It is an incredible partnership for us; we not only get assistance for our residents who really need it, but these guys are an incredible example for our current clients who are struggling with addiction," Coleman said. "So they see people who are actively pursuing their sobriety and who are giving back to their community, so they are role models."
Boggs said the men, who have also volunteered at Lilly's Place and other non-profits in the city, have found themselves at home helping Vanity Fair.
"We hope to do as much community service and to help out as many groups in the community as we can," Boggs said. "Obviously their primary focus at The Healing Place is on their recovery, but it's also important for them to get out in the community and to start to become productive members of the community and to give back instead of just taking. The Harmony House and Vanity Fair is a wonderful organization that really helps disadvantaged folks get housed. Part of our program is to teach the guys going through the program the importance of giving back and doing selfless acts. This is another way we can let these guys learn and humble them and we can continue to give back to the community."
Boggs said the men, many of whom are skilled carpenters, feel great about being able to contribute again and to work.
"It makes the day brighter when you help something look good," said Johnny Self.
Roy Morris also said it feels good to be needed again.
"I am thankful for the Healing Place to not give up on people like us," Morris said. "We are and can be productive members of society. It feels real good that they still believed in us; that gave us that hope that we need. We still are humans even though we do have an addiction problem. Our life ain't worthless and this here is a good way of showing it."
How to Help Harmony House:
If you would like to donate to Harmony House, visit www.harmonyhousewv.com. All donations will go toward renovations at Vanity Fair.
You can also call Harmony House assistant director Amanda Coleman at 304-523-2674 or visit the group's website at www.harmonyhousewv.com.
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