Jock Pitts loves his job. "We are able to keep people in their homes"”and are doing it in a cost-effective way."
After nearly two decades of service Pitts is CEO of People Working Cooperatively (PWC), and he takes pride in the business. "I am very passionate about it. You see the difference, and for some people that's all it takes." That feeling spreads among PWC volunteers. "They get stuck," Pitts says. "I was only going to do it for a year, but it is in my blood now."

PWC offers solutions for low-income and disabled homeowners who need serious home repairs. Average clients' income hovers around $13,000 a year, making it difficult if not impossible for them to replace a furnace or install a wheelchair ramp to reach a front door. With more than 4,000 volunteers and 90-plus full-time professionals on staff, PWC is able to provide some 9,000 services annually. The organization operates throughout 13 counties in southwestern Ohio and Northern Kentucky, fixing anything from a leaky roof to, most commonly, plumbing problems.

"We have the discipline of good financial management," says Pitts. "We operate as a business: a non-profit construction company without a profit as a bottom line." The 31-year-old organization acquires 52 percent of its funding and materials from big businesses such as Duke Energy and Messer Construction, along with some support from Hamilton County. Donations from other businesses and individuals provide the balance of financial support. PWC far surpassed this year's goal of raising $9 million. "We have grown over 50 percent over the last few years," Pitts notes.

Look at it this way: if PWC can tighten up a home, conserve energy, and bring fuel and utility bills down so clients can actually pay them, everyone benefits.

The city of Cincinnati's home ownership rate was 42.2 percent in 2005, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and that's significantly lower than the national average of 66.9 percent. Similar non-profit organizations such as Habitat for Humanity are able to build or totally renovate only a handful of houses per year.

PWC is noticeably different because "we are able to preserve what exists," says Pitts. "These are the people holding the neighborhood together, planting flowers in the front yard. Houses cost a lot of money in today's economy. This way, down the line, the home is there for another family"”and the community doesn't lose.

"A lot of people depend on us," Pitts adds. Word-of-mouth referrals and a United Way connection, along with the PWC web site (www.pwchomerepairs.org), have boosted service requests. But PWC doesn't post signs in clients' yards, to respect their privacy.

In February, PWC will hold its annual Oscar Night America fundraiser, a formal affair that is sanctioned by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. With Pirates of the Caribbean as the theme, guests can anticipate a swashbuckling good time, with the loot funding a worthy cause. PWC will concentrate the earnings on Modifications for Mobility, a project aimed at improving homes for the disabled and elderly.

PWC might be described as a powerhouse of goodwill. "Sometimes things happen to people, a horrible accident, and they are unable to provide for a family anymore," says Pitts. "We believe in giving a hand."
"”Jennifer Corso