You wonder if Bobby Trimble had any notion how widely his thoughtful idea would blossom and spread.
Trimble was the Texas oil worker who gathered a group of caring neighbors in 1973 to help a widow living on a fixed income with some much-needed home repairs. At the end of that productive and invigorating day of work, the woman exclaimed, "This is like Christmas in April!"
Rebuilding Together (formerly known as Christmas in April) became a national nonprofit organization in 1988 headquartered in Washington, D.C. There are now 260 affiliates of this volunteer organization in 49 states, preserving and revitalizing low-income houses and communities.
The group performs home repair and maintenance services at no charge for low-income homeowners and nonprofit facilities. The organization reaches out to the elderly, the disabled and families with children in an attempt to help them remain warm, safe and independent in their homes.
More than 250 affiliate leaders throughout the nation are now processing applications for National Rebuilding Day on April 24. Applicants must be owner-occupants and meet specific income guidelines.
"We are encouraging all folks who need help to let us know you are out there," said Charlie Foushee, Seattle Rebuilding Together development committee chair. "Sometimes people are simply afraid to ask — especially seniors. If they are unsure about what regional RT serves them, we’ll try and find them a crew and solution."
The 2010 national campaign officially began at the Super Bowl in Miami. "The Kickoff to Rebuild" featured present and past National Football League players who have become involved with Rebuilding Together (RT) in their respective cities.
Last year, more than 250,000 volunteers worked on more than 8,000 homes and nonprofit facilities, providing more than $84 million in improvements. Since the program began, 87,450 homes have been rehabilitated with the help of more than 2.3 million volunteers.
Much of the work for seniors involves building a ramp to eliminate steps to an entry. Recent statistics have revealed that the number of seniors seriously injured in falls continue to climb.
Reportedly, 60 percent of the deaths of people over the age of 65 are the result of a fall in the home. Each year, more than 11 million senior citizens fall — that’s nearly one out of every three people over 65. …CONTINUED
The injuries are also expensive to treat. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, treatment of the injuries and complications associated with falls costs more than $20.2 billion a year. Rebuilding Together’s affiliates and the surgeons’ American Academy recently launched a series of workshops and technical assistance sessions to explore the growing need for home modifications as the nation’s population ages.
Rebuilding Together relies on donations of cash, labor and materials from businesses and community groups before molding its schedule of projects.
The organization originally scheduled just one annual Rebuilding Day, but extra assistance from companies like Home Depot and Bank of America now allows for a year-round operation that includes a fall Rebuilding Day and Project Homefront, a special program to help military families repair and maintain their homes while a family member is deployed.
Rebuilding Together has also opened other doors for seniors. For example, Edwin Hoffman, a reverse-mortgage specialist for Wells Fargo, helped coordinate a RT project for a widow, 82, in Tacoma, Wash., two years ago.
The program brought the widow’s home up to Federal Housing Administration standards. The woman was then able to get a reverse mortgage and use the proceeds to comfortably age in place with a remodeled kitchen, new roof, septic repair and two bathroom makeovers.
While some community volunteers have extraordinary skills, the construction industry’s skilled trade professionals — plumbers, electricians, iron workers, glaziers and roofers — not only save time with their expertise but they also get excited about being part of the program. Volunteers must be at least 14 to participate.
For further information and a list of state chapters, visit www.rebuildingtogether.org.
Tom Kelly’s book "Cashing In on a Second Home in Mexico: How to Buy, Rent and Profit from Property South of the Border" was written with Mitch Creekmore, senior vice president of Houston-based Stewart International. The book is available in retail stores, on Amazon.com and on tomkelly.com.
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