Working alongside Rebuilding Together Bergen County and Lowe’s, Kickoff to Rebuild’s presenting sponsor, more than 150 volunteers from other sponsors, past and present NFL players, celebrities and community leaders are completing home repairs for 13 local low-income homeowners. Volunteers are also revitalizing two community spaces as part of continued rebuilding efforts in communities affected by Superstorm Sandy.
Photo courtesy of Malia Rae Photography
Meet Carrie Grip of Rebuilding Together Sacramento, the 2013 Executive Director of the Year. Carrie joined Rebuilding Together Sacramento in 1999 as its first staff member, and has led the affiliate ever since as the organization’s only executive director.
She first learned about Rebuilding Together through the tech company she was working with at the time. The company was working with the local Sacramento affiliate for one of their community service projects. Carrie was asked to manage a rebuild day, and from then on, she was hooked.
When Carrie heard that the local all-volunteer affiliate was seeking to hire their first paid executive director, she went for it. She knew what it would take: she’d worked a rebuilding day from the sponsor end as a volunteer coordinator and had a good idea of how such an event came together. She knew it would be hard work, but also that it would be well worth it.
What kind of work draws someone in and keeps them on board year after year? When we asked Carrie to share a moment that shows what her work is all about, she described a wonderful woman whose home Rebuilding Together Sacramento rebuilt. The homeowner was very active in her community and “everyone loved her,” said Carrie. Two hundred volunteers came together through a big church in the area to help rebuild their beloved neighbor’s home. The homeowner didn’t see any of the work in progress, and when she was brought in for the big reveal tour, Carrie remembers her crying with joy and gratitude as she looked around her newly safe and healthy home. The most memorable moment came, perhaps surprisingly, when they got to the bathroom. The homeowner reached down into the bathtub and turned on the faucet. As she stuck her hand under the stream of warm water, she said, “This is the first time I’ve had hot water for ten years.” This beloved friend to all, who baked pies and looked after neighborhood children, had been heating water on her stove and carrying it to the bathroom in pots to fill her tub and bathe for a decade. The image of her hand under the water is vivid in Carrie’s memory to this day.
That’s the kind of impact every Rebuilding Together project has on the safety and health of homeowners nationwide. You might not see such transformation from the outside of the house, but it makes all the difference in the world of each homeowner served. This homeowner lived without water behind closed doors, and Rebuilding Together Sacramento ensured that her home was made safe and healthy. That’s the kind of work that keeps people like Carrie, who are passionate, skilled and giving, hooked on the work we do together.
Carrie’s nominator described her as “very hands on and open minded with all management and employee situations…the phrase ‘can’t do’ is not in her vocabulary. If there is an opportunity that will benefit her affiliate, she goes for it with spirit and enthusiasm that rubs off on the rest of the team. Her dedication creates immense loyalty.”
“I love the organization,” she said. “I think what we’re doing is great. It’s something that’s valuable, unique, rewarding and badly needed.” Carrie is happy to come to work every day, which she says is “really special.” She feels blessed to work with the volunteers and staff we work with on a daily basis. “You get attached to people who work at affiliates,” she says. “They’re such great people, and we learn so much from one another.” In her earlier days, she also enjoyed the flexible hours that allowed her to spend time raising her daughter. She happily recalled her daughter roller skating around the Rebuilding Together warehouse and helping to fold t-shirts. Fourteen years after joining Rebuilding Together Sacramento, Carrie is still as glad to be here as she was then: “I still like it, there’s still more to do.” She feels very motivated by what we do, and the potential she sees around the network. She is excited by the new things that are always happening, and wants to see what more we can accomplish and how we can grow.
Carrie has followed her vision of a full service housing agency, and has led great growth at Rebuilding Together Sacramento. Thanks to her hard work and commitment, Rebuilding Together Sacramento has grown from a $100,000 budget a $1.3 million budget, with an impact of 4,230 projects valued at $14 million, and from two to five highly successful programs. As a Rebuilding Together thought leader, Carrie is at the table helping to shape Rebuilding Together, Inc.’s Foundation for the Future under our new President and CEO Charley Shimanski in addition to her work at Rebuilding Together Sacramento. While Carrie received her award back in November at our National Conference in Washington, DC, we would like to take this opportunity to thank her again for her dedication and service, and congratulate her on this well-deserved honor!
Would you like to kick off the New Year by helping a homeowner in need? Just visit rebuildingtogether.org/help/ to get started today.
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.
Rebuilding Together starts Building a Healthy Neighborhood 2013 in Columbus, Ohio, this Thursday! We’ll be renovating 16 homes in the Greater Hill Top community. Here are a few of the homeowner’s we’ll be helping.
Vinell, born in 1959, has lived in her current home for almost her whole adult life. During her time on the Hilltop, Vinell enjoyed working as a nurse’s aide at the Columbus Developmental Center, but her career was cut short because of an injury, resulting in two knee and two hip replacements.
In recent years, Vinell’s disability has prevented her from setting the example she would like.Living on a fixed income prevents her from being able to afford maintenance on her house. The project includes: replacing basement windows with glass block, adding a handrail to the front stairs, installing a new handheld shower sprayer, and installing a transition strip between the kitchen and living room.
Aletha, born in Alabama in 1945, moved to Columbus in 1963 in order to be closer to her relatives. During her adulthood, she married and 2 daughters and a son. She worked as a machine operator and her husband worked for Nationwide.
Aletha has lived in her current home for almost 40 years. Her children grew up in the home, and she remembers fondly how her children and their friends would play in the house. This outgoing and likeable woman has recently been spending much more time at home, having retired in January 2013. She tries to keep herself busy with sewing and cooking. She particularly likes baking things such as cakes and pies.
Now living on a fixed income, Aletha is having trouble with the maintenance of her home. Some of the repairs that would help her stay warm, safe and dry include: repairing the handrail to the back door, installing new smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and miscellaneous electrical repairs.
Henry, born in Pennsylvania in 1962, has been in Columbus for 27 years. During his time in Columbus, Henry became a truck driver; a job he enjoyed very much. He proudly talks about having been to every state in the continental U.S.
Henry has been in his current home for only 12 years, and in that short amount of time he and his family have created many wonderful memories. His two daughters spent most of their childhood in this house. Henry is also enjoying creating new memories with three of his grandchildren every Sunday when they come to visit for dinner, as well as with a 22 month old child he and his wife are fostering.
Currently, Henry and his wife have been living on a fixed income. A few of the repairs include: replacing missing shingles on the roof, gutter clean out and repair and yard work.
William was born in Columbus. Upon entering adulthood, he joined the Army, in which he was a carpenter. He loved the trade so much that he still continues to find carpentry work where he can despite no longer being in the military.
Though he has only owned his house for two and a half years, he has known it for much longer. His parents bought the house in 1964 when he was only eight years old. He decided to buy the home when it looked like his family might lose it. Inside the house, you can see his passion for carpentry and interior design in ceiling textures and painted designs. He explains that he would like to turn this hobby into a way to help others by developing properties and working on shelters for the homeless. Not having a steady job has made it difficult for William to afford repairs for his home.
Rebuilding Together New York City, Lowe’s, and Meredith Corporation are renovating close to a dozen homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy in Brooklyn’s Gerritsen Beach neighborhood this Thursday. Here are some of the homeowners they’ll be helping.
Mr. and Mrs. Monel
Mr. Monel, 73, and Mrs. Monel, 76, live at their home along with their son, who is hearing impaired. The’ve lived there for 45 years. Mr. Monel has recalled that some of his favorite memories are going to the beach where he would fish and go crabbing with his friends. Before retiring, Mr. Monel used to work as a machinist repairing surgical instruments at a local hospital, and in his spare time would renovate homes in downtown Brooklyn. The Monel family has done much of the repairs in their home on their own when they can little by little.
Ms. Russo, 79, has been staying with family in New Jersey since Hurricane Sandy. The storm flooded her first floor with nine feet of water. Ms. Russo has lived in Gerritsen Beach all her life and lived in her home since she was 12 years old. Her home was passed down from her mother, who purchased the home along with her father in 1945 from an English family.
Mr. and Mrs. McCauley
Mr. McCauley, 47, had the home passed down to him from his parents, and lives there with his wife, 43, and their 9-year-old daughter. For two months after the storm, he and his family stayed in a shelter until they could find space with their relatives. Since then, they have been doing what they can with the repairs they need, but Mr. McCauley had to retire from the NYCTA in 2009 when he discovered he had eye cancer. His wife has been ill and out of work as an MTA bus driver since March 2012, but says she’ll return to work in a few weeks.
Ms. Dowd, 48, lives at her home with her 13-year-old son. She has lived in her home for more than 16 years, but her family has been in Gerritsen Beach over 100 years. Ms. Dowd said she could never see herself living anywhere else. Ms. Dowd and her son are currently staying with family and still have yet to move back into their home since the storm.
Rebuilding Together Springfield galvanized 1,000 volunteers and repaired 25 homes in honor of National Rebuilding Day.
Colleen Loveless, the executive director of Rebuilding Together Springfield, did such an incredible community rebuild because she wanted to have a broader and more sustainable impact on Springfield’s Old Hill Neighborhood.
Old Hill is the poorest neighborhood in Massachusetts. Colleen said that a number of nonprofits have been building new homes in and around the neighborhood. However, Rebuilding Together Springfield wanted to revitalize Tyler Street in Old Hill to give back to the families that have been there for decades. “They needed critical repairs,” Colleen said. “We wanted to help these homeowners who have stuck it through here for all these years.”
Planning for this expansive project started last November. Rebuilding Together Springfield had some applications in, but they went door to door in Old Hill and attended community meetings to spread the word. People were skeptical at first. Colleen said the poor and elderly are especially vulnerable to fraud. Some homeowners saw the free repairs Rebuilding Together promised to provide as too good to be true. However, it didn’t take too long for the community to start backing Rebuilding Together Springfield in their efforts to revitalize Old Hill.
Usually, Rebuilding Together Springfield repairs about 15 homes with 500 volunteers all over the city on National Rebuilding Day. Now, they had 25 homes and 1,000 volunteers all on Tyler Street. “It’s pretty amazing work, and we got to see the totality of it and the impact.”
That impact wasn’t just reserved for the volunteers. TD Bank sponsored a block party cookout with live music. There were face painting stations set up for the neighborhood children. Middle schoolers made flower pots and planted them in gardens. Senior citizens manned the arts and crafts table where they made signs for the homeowners.
The most difficult part for Colleen was making sure she had the right number of volunteers. As word spread, the momentum could hardly be stopped. More and more people donated and wanted to volunteer. Things originally thought impossible to do became a reality thanks to the new donors and volunteers. “It was a nice problem to have,” Colleen joked.
One homeowner that really touched Colleen was an elderly U.S. Marine veteran. He still works full time to support his wife who was diagnosed with cancer. She finished her last round of chemo therapy a week before National Rebuilding Day. One of their children volunteered that day as well.
A volunteer who Colleen really appreciated was an elderly man who stopped by after lunch, because he knew a lot of morning volunteers would leave around that time. The Springfield man took a shuttle bus and rode his bike from the bus stop to volunteer for the event. Colleen said, “he did all the unglamorous volunteer work: cleaning up after the block party, lifting, trash removal.”
And all their effort went beyond just landscaping and painting. Rebuilding Together Springfield volunteers converted oil heating to natural gas, removed mold, installed ramps, repaired roofs, fixed plumbing, and weatherized homes. They truly revitalized a community.
Tomorrow at 7:30 a.m., Lifetime’s Designing Spaces will air the final installment of Joy Stewart’s journey.
Joy and her grandchildren were living in a home without any heat, water, electricity, or even food. Last December, The local authorities stepped in and helped spread the word about the amount of help Joy and her family needed. Joy’s community banded together and helped her turn her utilities back on. Walmart, Brand Smart and Home Deport donated a water heater, refrigerator, food, clothes, and toys. However, the condition of their home was unlivable and the holiday spirit of giving came to an end.
That’s where Rebuilding Together Broward County and Designing Spaces stepped in. Designing Spaces’ Dream Team took on the biggest rehabilitation challenge they’ve ever seen.Rebuilding Together Broward County and Designing Spaces spent two weeks turning Joy’s house into a safe and healthy home for her and her grandchildren.
You can their amazing work tomorrow on Lifetime at 7:30 a.m.
In honor of Women’s History Month, we spoke to a few of our exceptional female leaders to get their thoughts on their careers, their communities, the women who have inspired them, and their advice to women trying to make it in the nonprofit world.
Pam Howe, a board member of Rebuilding Together Peoria, first got involved with Rebuilding Together through volunteering. After finding her volunteer experience so rewarding, she joined Peoria’s Project Selection Committee in 1995. She has been with Rebuilding Together Peoria ever since serving in several roles.
Amy Hoyte, Executive Director of Rebuilding Together South Sound, joined Rebuilding Together through what she called “a lovely mistake.” She quit her previous job during her maternity leave and was searching for an administrative job with a construction company. A friend of hers led her to Rebuilding Together South Sound. After a couple weeks, “Rebuilding Together South Sound became my second baby,” said Amy. And it’s been her second baby for 8 years.
Julie Smith, Executive Director of Rebuilding Together Central Ohio, saw her first Rebuilding Together project in 1996 while she worked with kids in social services. Her husband was one of the first volunteers her affiliate saw in 1991. She became the Executive Director in 1998.
All of these leaders have a story to tell about how a homeowner or volunteer affected them.
Two of Pam’s service recipients and their families come out to volunteer for Rebuilding Together Peoria every year on National Rebuild Day. She finds constant inspiration from them. “They have encountered circumstances beyond their control that leave them with physical or financial limitations. Such limitations have not jaded or impeded their willingness to help others, and I will not let the daily challenges or stresses in my life jade or impede me.”
A family Amy met in the beginning of her time with Rebuilding Together still holds a place in her heart. A couple with two teenage boys just had a baby born with severe disabilities. The mother quit her job to care for their child, which significantly impacted their income. The father had to ignore calls from work at night regarding mandatory overtime because they’d lose their Medicaid benefits if he worked too much, which was how they could afford the specialized food their child needed to eat.
“There was no way to describe the feeling in that house that day for me,” said Amy, a new mom herself at the time. “It hit home and I knew that I would be doing this work for a long time.”
Julie said her volunteers make it impossible not to be happy with her work when they are so happy to be there. “They’re talented and willing to share with each other and our homeowners. It’s the best training grounds for people who want to be homeowners.”
You Can’t Do it Alone
None of these women take sole credit for their successes.
“One role model has been Mother Theresa and her Missionaries of Charity vow to give wholehearted and free service to the poorest of the poor,” said Pam. “My professional role model has been my own mother, who successfully balanced family life and full-time employment at a time when female employment outside the home was not widely accepted. My Rebuilding Together role model was former Vice President for Affiliate Relations, Melissa Flynn, whose ability to convert passion into action I strive to emulate within my affiliate.”
Amy thanks her mother and teachers she had growing up for nurturing her and allowing her the opportunities to make mistakes and to learn from them. She also draws inspiration from Melissa Flynn and Amy Radachi in the Rebuilding Together Network for their long-term dedication to the cause.
Julie credits her father and her family for her success. Her sister has worked with Rebuilding Together as well for 9 years and her husband has been a constant volunteer.
Advice to Women Working in Nonprofits
“Seek out as many different types of experiences as possible at first, to help determine what it is that they are passionate about.” – Amy
“Embrace the cause and let it guide all decisions and actions. Surround yourself with talented people. Develop relationships with a diverse network of advisors and centers of influence.” – Pam
“Stick to your mission. Know your mission. You have to look at it like a for profit. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. Nonprofit is still a woman’s world. It’s one place we are truly equal.” - Julie
What makes you give back to your community? Here’s what some of our volunteers had to say about working with Rebuilding Together.
"The people are so appreciative. An old couple was almost in tears because someone helped and cared that much. Another woman kept watching and interacting with everyone. She saw her house transform in front of her eyes." - Jim Kahle
“We have neighbors who need help and we can help them.” - Jerry Liu
“It takes a special mindset to see the value of doing something for the benefit of others.” - Earl Sires
“I think we all owe our community something. We live here, earn a living here, raise our families here. We all owe dues to our community.” - Jerry Liu
“God gave me the ability to put two feet on the floor, to swing a hammer, and people like Janelle can’t do that. Just because she can’t do it herself, doesn’t mean she can’t have it or doesn’t deserve it.” - John Gaspari
The Woods family, taking care of each other and their community
Meet the Woods family! They’re a father/daughter duo who Rebuilding Together Baltimore and volunteers from the Oak Crest Retirement Community helped by renovating their family home to make it more accessible and safe.
Mr. Woods currently lives with his daughter in their family home in the Colgate neighborhood of Baltimore County. He spent much of his childhood, however, in an orphanage.
At the age of 18, Mr. Woods left school early to join the Navy, where he served for 3 years and rose to the rank of Seaman First Class on the USS Tatum Ship. He was a gunner’s mate on the USS Tatum. He still remembers firing at Japanese and German Planes that flew overhead during World War II.
After leaving the Navy when the war was over, Mr. Woods was homeless for a time. A friend of his found him work at a horse stable. In exchange for room and board, he took care of the horses. He met the daughter of a stable owner when he was out for a ride. He eventually married her and they were together until her passing in 2002.
After his stay at the horse stable, Mr. Woods worked for a dairy farm, General Motors, and eventually the Bethlehem Steel Company. At 60, he went back to school and received his GED certificate.
Mr. Woods, now 86, currently suffers from several medical conditions. He has been diagnosed with carpal tunnel, cataracts, diabetes, and a heart condition. Ms. Woods, his live in daughter, also has a diagnosed brain disorder.
Mr. Woods hasn’t let his health affect his community work though. He is an active member of Destroyer S. Court Sailor Association of Maryland, the VFW, and the Retired Steel Workers Union Hall. He also helps the Red Cross by organizing blood drives at the VFW. He is a certified volunteer minister, giving communion to patients at a local hospital every Sunday.
Despite the large amount of community work Mr. Woods does and the care his daughter provides to him, they still had trouble keeping up with dire home repairs. Rebuilding Together Baltimore, with the help of volunteers from the Oak Crest Retirement Community, repaired their roof and porch, and installed a new stove, handrail station, drywall, grab bar, toilet, and refrigerator. They also replaced their old water heater and furnace. Their bathroom was also redone to better help with William’s limited mobility. Their bathroom now features a Safeway Step in the tub, a shower seat, and a hand held shower head.