Our AmeriCorps members finish their CapacityCorps training today! We can’t wait to see how they better the lives of low-income homeowners throughout their service.
Meet Hillary Bundy!
Hillary Bundy, a program manager at Rebuilding Together’s National Office, has spent the last four years working in almost every facet Rebuilding Together has to offer.
Born in Oklahoma, Hillary grew up in a small town in Texas. However, she considers both states her home.
Hillary went to George Washington University where she majored in international affairs and concentrated in contemporary cultures and society. She sees her studies in social cultural anthropology going hand in hand with her work with Rebuilding Together’s affiliates and community development. And she’s in good company. A surprisingly high number of anthropologists have found their way to Rebuilding Together’s National Office.
She started at Rebuilding Together as the green housing intern in June of 2009 and held that position until May 2010. Soon after, she began her term of service with CapacityCorps at Rebuilding Together Oklahoma City. She made her way back to the national office in the summer of 2011 as the office specialist. She quickly transitioned to program associate for the grants team and has recently been promoted to program manager.
As for the differences between the National Office and the Affiliate Network, Hillary said, “We see things nationally. We try to help the entire network. Affiliates see their community and try to understand how national things affect them.”
Hillary’s favorite Rebuilding Together moment is her NBA Cares Day of Service experience while serving as a CapacityCorps member. She worked alongside the Oklahoma City Thunder players. The players affectionately called her “The Boss Lady.” Hillary joked, “Apparently, I run a tight volunteer ship.”
Hillary said she sees Tiffanie Kinney, Rebuilding Together’s affiliate relations director of central regions, as a source of inspiration. Tiffanie was Hillary’s supervisor when she was an intern. “Tiffanie has a wealth of Rebuilding Together knowledge. She knows the sponsors and affiliates really well.”
Tim Reardon, program director for Rebuilding Together Oklahoma City, also served as a mentor for Hillary. “Tim really helped me grow professionally. He was supportive, always wanted to hear more, and was a great provider of constructive feedback.” She especially admired how much Tim believed in CapacityCorps. Hillary said that Tim always wanted new ideas from the young people in the community. Hillary last heard from Tim not too long ago when he sent her a congratulations note for her recent promotion.
When not helping Rebuilding Together affiliates, Hillary sings in a competitive karaoke league. We had to know what theme song she would give to Rebuilding Together. After some thought, Hillary said, “We Built This City.” Sounds perfect to us.
This is a guest post by Stephanie Carvajal, AmeriCorps Member, Rebuilding Together Miami-Dade
The University of Scranton Women’s Crew Team, a group of 17 energetic and hard working women, packed into two fifteen passenger vans and made the 25 hour drive from Scranton, Pennsylvania to Miami, Florida to spend their Spring Break volunteering with the Miami-Dade affiliate of Rebuilding Together. The Women’s crew team has made it a team tradition to spend their spring break volunteering; each year dedicating their time to a different non-profit organization. In the past, the university would sponsor the team’s trip, but in recent years their funding has been cut, leaving the girls to fund the trip themselves. Through the generosity of Reverend Susan Keedy and the All Angels Episcopal Church in Miami Springs, FL, the team was given a place to stay free of charge. Once the team received the news that their housing would be taken care of, the team, armed with jars of peanut butter & jelly that had been donated by the university’s cafeteria, made their way down to Miami.
The team spent four days helping the Rebuilding Together Miami-Dade staff rehab two homes in the South Miami area. Both homes had interior renovations completed prior to the team’s arrival and were in need of exterior painting. The group did an excellent job on both homes with both family members and neighbors expressing how unrecognizable the homes looked. One homeowner, an elderly gentleman, who in recent years has suffered both a heart attack and stroke deeming him unable to walk on his own, asked his family to please help him outside of his home so he could see the work the team had done. The homeowner was so overjoyed with the work the team had done, he thanked each of the women individually.
“Having the opportunity to work with Rebuilding Together has been a truly remarkable and heartwarming experience. The hard work we put in pays off when we see how grateful the people we help are and to be able to help others is wonderful. I wouldn’t have wanted to spend Spring Break any other way. This has been an amazing opportunity that has helped us grow as a team and has helped me grow as a person” – Jessica Peterson, Class of 2016.
AmeriCorps Member Helps Bring Thanksgiving Back Home
Rachel Lehr, AmeriCorps Year Round Coordinator for Rebuilding Together South Sound, shared with us her Rebuilding Together experience
Ms. Hill is an elderly woman who lives alone in Tacoma. She has had cancer twice and has to use a walker to get around because the chemo has left her weak. She applied to Rebuilding Together South Sound because the faucets in her kitchen and bathroom were dripping constantly, the electrical system didn’t work in part of her home, and the baseboard heaters weren’t working. Her application was a little more serious than some applications that we get, but her descriptions were nowhere close to what we had anticipated.
Water ran continually, even when the sink handles were shut off, because the pipes used in Ms. Hill’s home were corroded. She had been collecting the free-flowing water in jars so it wasn’t just running down the drain. Her water bill was $600 per month. In addition, the electrical outlets in four of the six rooms in the home weren’t working and Ms. Hill was using extension cords to get power to her kitchen and bedroom. Finally, the baseboard heaters in those same rooms wouldn’t work. Ms. Hill resorted to attempting to heat her home with her oven. In the winter, her electric bill could get as high as $500 per month. After our initial home visit, I was really excited and determined to help Ms. Hill.
The Rebuilding Together South Sound volunteers couldn’t have been better! A volunteer plumber replaced the pipes and the faucets for the kitchen and bathroom sinks so they would actually shut off and be corrosion free. He checked the entire bathroom to make sure nothing would cause her any problems in the future. A volunteer contractor put in a grab bar to ensure Ms. Hill could access her restroom without assistance. An electrician volunteer replaced all 30 broken outlets and the four baseboard heaters so Ms. Hill could actually live in her whole home. And thanks to a donation from Lowe’s, materials and new appliances were provided allowed this project to happen.
I had the opportunity to speak with Ms. Hill shortly after all the repairs were complete. For the first time in over ten years she had guests over to her home for Thanksgiving. Ms. Hill is proud of her home again. She knows she can stay in her home independently, for a longer time, and most importantly with more dignity! Her doctor was also happy because the repairs will help her during the difficult cancer recovery process.
What made me the most excited, or happy, or stunned (I’m still not really sure which) was the amount of money she is now saving every month. Her water bill dropped from $600 to $200 per month and she became eligible for the water company’s senior reduced rate, an additional $100 a month in savings. Her electric bill is a similar story - what started as a $500 bill will go down because she is heating her home efficiently and will be reduced by 30% each month. In addition to restoring a safe and healthy home, I was able to help save Ms. Hill almost $8,000 a year in utility costs!
Ms. Hill now has more freedom in her home and in her finances. I am just astounded that we can impact someone’s life so dramatically. I am grateful to have been a part of the process. I am grateful to serve.
“What a Special Gift”
When Mary first contacted Rebuilding Together Aurora to see about getting her broken chairlift replaced, she had almost given hope of being able to leave her home. A ramp was out of the question for her from a financial standpoint, and due to the weakening of the muscles in her neck from her disability, being carried outside was painful and traumatic for her. It was October of 2012, and she hadn’t been outside of her house more than once in ten months.
Rebuilding Together Aurora was able to address her need for a new lift through the Safe at Home Program, funded by the City of Aurora’s Community Development Block Grant. Mary was amazed to hear that she would be able to use her lift before Christmas, and also a little bit skeptical; however, just about two months later she was able to roll out her back door and into the wider world. “The lift is just wonderful,” Mary says, glowing with excitement, “because I can scoot right out the door, no jostling!” Mary says while she wasn’t exactly lonely during her year in her house, having the company of her dogs and caregiver, she did get “cabin fever.” She would think of how nice it would be to get out and just run simple errands, to be able to see different things and make contact with a variety of people.
When asked where she planned on going to enjoy her regained freedom, Mary said, “I want to go to Ice Cream Drive,” where a popular shopping center is located. “So many of the stores that I like, all in one place.” Mary’s story reminds those of us who do not have mobility impairments of the aspects of life that we take for granted. Mary was overjoyed to have her lift ready in time for Christmas, as she’d been told it would be. “What a special gift! It would really be my pleasure to help anyone realize how wonderful this program is and how it can impact people’s lives.”
Michael Verla wins Rebuilding Together’s AmeriCorps Member of the Year Award
Michael Verla, 23, recently won Rebuilding Together’s AmeriCorps Member of the Year Award.
Originally from a small town in Massachusetts, Michael studied community development at the University of Vermont. Michael’s passion for helping others led him to look for service opportunities through the AmeriCorps Program. “I found Rebuilding Together Philadelphia through an AmeriCorps position. It seemed like it would be a good fit,” Michael said. “I could serve in communities and with a nonprofit that’s having an impact and doing its own brand of community development.”
Michael’s service included about a dozen major projects while being an AmeriCorps member at Rebuilding Together Philadelphia. His first project was a Maxwell House Drops of Good community center renovation. Another one of his service projects was Building a Healthy Neighborhood, one of Rebuilding Together’s largest annual events.
Michael was in charge of coordinating the energy efficient repairs and modifications. He often found himself doing volunteer management and community outreach. “It was formative in a lot of ways,” Michael said looking back at his experience. He managed a wide variety of volunteers from local neighborhoods, corporations and universities. Michael’s favorite part of his service was helping the homeowners though. “I’d engage with homeowners and go to community meetings. I loved being the liason between the residents and organization.” He’d be the homeowners’ point person when it came to questions concerning their new energy efficient upgrades or home repair.
His favorite project was a block build that took place over two weekends. A team of Rebuilding Together Philadelphia volunteers renovated an entire block in West Philadelphia. Michael quickly developed a rapport with the homeowners. He began meeting with them several months before the renovations took place. “I had a really strong connection with the homeowners. There was a lot of good energy.”
A woman from that West Philadelphia project named Alice especially stood out to Michael. He considered her a Block Captain of sorts. Alice was more than happy to get the word out about the block build, work alongside the volunteers, and even recruit her son to volunteer for the project as well.
As an AmeriCorps member, Michael’s favorite experiences came from being surrounded by his fellow AmeriCorps members. Rebuilding Together AmeriCorps members are placed all over the country, but they come together for their orientation, Rebuilding Together’s National Conference, and the AmeriCorps’ Martin Luther King Jr. service week. “It got everybody together. We picked each other’s brains, which we couldn’t do in our day to day tasks. We shared stories. It was a powerful experience.”
And for how he feels about being the Rebuilding Together’s AmeriCorps member of the year? “It was exciting, and I definitely feel honored. It’s humbling because there are so many others doing such great work.”
To find out more about Rebuilding Together’s AmeriCorps program, visit this link: rebuildingtogether.org/capacitycorps