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.