Jackson House is getting a face lift on its 130-year-old home in Hot Springs, hoping it can continue to lift up people in need.
The help comes at a time of year when people look to help their fellow man. In this case, workers are helping the house that once helped them.
“It's been here since the 1800s and it's been helping people almost ever since,” said Scott Fritz, taking a break from scraping paint and filling caulk on the Victorian-era house.
“Our mission is to meet the basic human needs of people in crisis,” said Janie Smith, the executive director of the non-profit begun by her father 42 years ago. “We give out about a million pounds of groceries annually. We completely empty and refill our pantry every two weeks.”
Groceries go out the back door, while a line of hungry and homeless queues at a window out front.
“We put everything together, heat it up, and we put out a hot lunch,” said Smith. “We'll expect anywhere from 150 to 200 people today.”
Volunteers buzz around the building, passing out the meals, taking in donations and stacking toys. The daily grind takes its toll on the house, and that’s when Smith started reaching out to find Fritz to reconnect.
“I came through here for clothes, food. They've always been here for us,” Fritz said. He said he took the handouts from Jackson House and became a handyman, returning to help out on a project about nine years ago. “I go around and fix people’s problems that they can't fix themselves.”
Smith tracked him down and the two secured money to get to work. He rented a boom and he and a coworker are scraping and painting, even working on Thanksgiving and in the rain.
His work is “on the house” because his thoughts are with the house and he’s not looking to get paid for the project.
“I don't want anything. God will take care of me. I'm fine,” he said. “I just want these guys to get more help in donations. I mean God brought me here for this job. Trust me I'm fine.”
If the weather cooperates Fritz hopes to finish the project in the next couple of weeks - just in time for Christmas.