Are you a Fixer or a Fixee?
Need a new roof? A wheelchair accessible ramp to your front door? If your income falls below the HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) minimum income, are current on your taxes and your mortgage payments, and have homeowner’s insurance, you could be eligible for home repairs through a U.S. national organization called Rebuilding Together (www.rebuildingtogether.org).
Better still, if you’re able-bodied and mobile, you can be one of more than 75,000 volunteers across the country each year who make homes safe and healthy for others in their communities. What could be more satisfying than helping someone stay in their home after a disability strikes, when age makes home maintenance a challenge, or when a limited income re-classifies home repairs from a “need” into a luxury item beyond their reach.
Meet Frank Reid
Frank Reid is President of the Board for the Southeast Michigan affiliate of Rebuilding Together (RT). When asked why he volunteers 10-20 hours of his valuable time each week to RT, Frank responds without hesitation, “To give back to my community.” Giving back, for Frank, started more than 15 years ago when his son, Adam – then a student in high school – needed service hours. Frank and Adam volunteered for Rebuilding Together through their church which eventually led to Frank being asked to serve as a House Captain. This entailed attending a two-hour training seminar on a Saturday morning to learn about workplace safety, insurance restrictions, and other important details needed to oversee his church’s volunteer squad.
House Captain soon became Project Manager which then became a stint on the Rebuilding Together steering team for his city. A little over five years ago, Frank became president of the Rebuilding Together Board and Regional Director for the Southeast Michigan affiliate. Although Frank spends much of his time these days working with RT’s Executive Director and helping his Board raise funds and secure grant money, he still finds time to attend most of his region’s nearly 50 builds per year.
What if you’re NOT Frank Reid???
You don’t have 10-20 hours per week to devote to repairing homes in your community and you’re not interested in serving on a board? No problem! Rebuilding Together offers a wide variety of volunteer opportunities, generally asking for only one day of your time. While Frank hires contractors for the big jobs – replacing a roof, rewiring a house, extensive electrical work – there are still massive opportunities for the rest of us. No matter your age, experience, or ability, as long as you’re mobile, RT can use you. Painting and yard work, for example, don’t require bodybuilder strength or loads of expertise, but can make a failing house look warm and welcoming once again.
Got a little more “handyman” (or woman) in you? You might be asked to help replace the floor in a water damaged bathroom or install a new sink to replace the leaky, cracked one the homeowner can no longer use. RT’s project managers do a 25-point assessment on each house before the build begins. They notice things like missing smoke detectors, inadequate outdoor safety lighting, and rooms that are not wheelchair accessible. In short, Rebuilding Together offers challenges to DIYers who know their way around a socket wrench as well as those of us who haven’t done much beyond paint, rake, and stake. All supplies and tools are supplied by Rebuilding Together, generally through grants and individual donations.
Still Not Convinced?
If giving back to your community doesn’t make your eyes light up, consider this: the Stanford Center on Longevity, the Mayo Clinic, and the Longitudinal Study on Aging all found that people who volunteer enjoy lower mortality rates than the rest of the population, even when controlled for age, gender, and overall physical health. In fact, people who volunteer have lower rates of depression, especially for people over 65, increased physical and mental agility, and are more likely to meet new people and form new relationships.
So why aren’t more of us doing it?
Research shows that only 1 in 4 Americans volunteers at least one hour per year and surprisingly, participation doesn’t increase in retirement, especially if you didn’t do volunteer work prior to retirement.
Besides time commitments and scheduling conflicts, one of the more common answers given as a reason for not volunteering is “no one asked me to.” Well, consider yourself asked!
If you do just one thing, make it one of these:
Go to www.rebuildingtogether.org and click on “Our Network” and then on “Find Your Local Affiliate” Call or email the contact in your area and let him/her know you’re interested in volunteering. What if your state is not one of the 39 states with affiliate chapters of Rebuilding Together? Start one! Click on “Our Partners” and then “Partner with Us.”
Circle Saturday, April 27th, on your calendar – a nationwide rebuild day – and tell all your friends to keep that day free (Hint: it’s part of the U.S.’s National Rebuilding Month and it’s an annual RT event)
Make a donation by clicking on the red “Donate” button in the upper left-hand corner of the home page
Take the Pledge to make your community stronger and support your neighbors in need (https://rebuildingtogether.org/register)
Get on RT’s email list
Ready to Roll?
Tell your friends! Recruit a few of your besties and make a day of it, ending at a local restaurant or brewery to pat yourselves on the back for all the good you just did in your community.
Snap a few selfies and show your grandchildren what a positive impact you’re making in the world
Go to bed feeling good about yourself tonight!
No matter your skill level or the time you have to spend, Rebuilding Together has a volunteer opportunity just waiting for you to fill. Look into it today and then sign up and show up!
Mayo Clinic: https://mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/helping-people-changing-lives-the-6-health-benefits-of-volunteering
Stanford Center for Longevity: http://longevity.stanford.edu/three-reasons-why-people-dont-volunteer-and-what-can-be-done-about-it/
Longitudinal Studies on Aging: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/lsoa/index.htm
Rebuilding Together: https://rebuildingtogether.org/
Rebuilding Together, Southeast Michigan affiliate: https://www.rebuildingtogethersem.org/
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