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Christian Youth Corps undertakes ‘Operation Storm Norm’ in Elma

READY TO ROLL — Operation Storm Norm workers from the Christian Youth Corps gathered in front of Norm Reformat’s home in Elma, as they worked on renovations. Photos submitted by Pete Andrews.
ELMA — Norm Reformat had spent years working on the “fixer upper” house in Elma that he shares with his son, before he got sick and was no longer able to do the repairs, himself. When Reformat entered the Erie County Medical Center for a kidney and pancreas transplant, the Christian Youth Corps of Delevan went in to rebuild Reformat’s house, so he can come home safely.

According to Pete Andrews of the CYC, “Operation Storm Norm” has been going on since Nov. 16, with more than 100 volunteers from the CYC, local fire fighting companies and others in Franklinville, Delevan, Machias and Arcade as well as two exchange students from Kenya and Indonesia. With more than 50 workers onsite at some times, the workers have been rebuilding Reformat’s house literally from the ground up, a more than $75,000 project.

“There’s no basement, so we have had to go right down to the dirt, in some places, and pour a new foundation, in others,” Andrews explained. “We’ve installed all new drywall, new beams, wiring, radiant floor heating, a new boiler system, new hot water tank, a new bathroom upstairs, tiling, flooring, walls [and] a new kitchen. As we do one part, we find another that needs work. Our mission is to do everything the right way, using the right materials to get the job done the way it’s supposed to be done, so that’s what we’re doing.”

Andrews said that the whole project got started when friends of Reformat’s called Andrews and said they wanted to do something for their friend, who had been sick for years. A plumbing supply representative for Irr Supply in East Aurora, Reformat has helped out with CYC projects, in the past. According to Andrews, his friends decided that now, it was his turn.

“They said they wanted to help out and we agreed to do it, and as we went on, it became a real community project,” Andrews said. “We utilized our network of contractors and suppliers, in Western New York and a lot of people got on board. We’ve built up a network of people who can help out and met a lot of new contractors and new friends who can now team up with us, in the future.”

Originally, Reformat was supposed to come home on Nov. 16, to see the project kick off, but when he had to stay in the hospital longer, because of a blood infection, the CYC and Reformat’s friends decided to make the renovation a total surprise.

“We’ve been working closely with ECMC,” Andrews said. “We’ve got people in their public relations department and the nurse’s teams all in on it. Norm’s kind of a celebrity and he doesn’t even know it!”

WATCH YOUR HEAD — Volunteers carried a large beam through the Reformat house during renovations, which started Nov. 16.
On Nov. 27, CYC volunteers brought Reformat home to debrief him on the project going on at his house.

“We wanted to sort of prepare him a little bit, ahead of time, so he didn’t just come home to 200 people at his house,” Andrews said. Reformat’s friends and CYC volunteers showed the homeowner a video that had been made, detailing some of the home improvements, to give him an idea of what awaited him at home.

Because the project is not going to be finished for another week, according to Andrews, Reformat is staying at the Palmer House Bed & Breakfast in East Aurora, awaiting the renovations’ completion.

Andrews said that, in order to keep Reformat in the dark about the project, he has had to refrain from visiting him in the hospital.

“Norm has helped us out, in the past, and if he saw me, he would have a pretty good idea of what was going on. The secret has been well-kept,” Andrews said.

The Elma renovation was what Andrews called “a very interesting project.

“We reunited some old friends and met some new ones. We have competing contractors’ working together, to showcase their work. It’s all on the up-and-up; we use the best materials at the highest standards and everyone really does their best work,” he said. “The town of Elma really opened their arms to us, helping us out, every step of the way. They helped us with the electrical fees, inspection, all of that. This is a first for Elma, and it’s really great for the community.”

He added that the town officials said they were excited to see the CYC undertake Operation Storm Norm, and that they would welcome more projects of the same type, in the future. In addition, Andrews said that his volunteers have made concerted efforts to include Reformat’s neighbors in the event, including sending volunteers to help mow other houses’ lawns and rake leaves.

“We always make an effort to keep the neighborhood happy, since we have up to 50 cars on their street and the electric company [set up] all of that,” Andrews said. “The community has really joined together to get involved, and we have not had a single complaint.”

The CYC was started in 2002 with the stated goal of creating a place for young people to join others in an organized effort to make an impact in the Western New York area, according to www.christianyouthcorps.org. The organization undertakes projects both locally and across the country, from building houses from the ground up to helping out at the Buffalo Naval Park, Allegany State Park and others.

The CYC can be contacted at 353-8744, via email at cyc@christianyouthcorps.org or found online at www.christianyouthcorps.org.

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