Rebuilding Together Sacramento
The stories are the kind you hear often, but perhaps you don’t know the people behind them. A man has recently started using a wheelchair and now has difficulty moving around his home; ramps and other accessibility features are installed so he’s able to stay in his home. A mobile homeowner falls on deteriorating steps; the steps are rebuilt, and she now feels safe going out the door.
This is the work of Rebuilding Together Sacramento (RTS), a nonprofit that helps to repair homes for the elderly, disabled, low-income, and families with children with the goal of making them safe, healthy and efficient. Improvements are completed to make the home mobility-friendly, sturdy, energy efficient, dry, clean, and ventilated—all aspects that decrease the risk of falls, fires, mold, and other dangers.
RTS is one of 130 affiliates of Rebuilding Together, a national organization with headquarters in Washington, D.C. The Sacramento affiliate was established in 1991 by Robert and Nancy Tate, local business and community members. Since then it has provided services in over 6,700 homes and 95 nonprofit facilities.
“The importance of ‘home’ is something many people don’t think about until they’re at risk of losing it,” says Carrie Grip, executive director of RTS. “Perhaps it’s in disrepair or the maintenance is too much to handle, but there’s a direct connection between the health of a home and the occupant’s ability to thrive.”
Grip first worked with the group more than 20 years ago when she was brought in by her corporate employer to coordinate a volunteer event for coworkers. A few years later she was hired by the affiliate’s board of directors, who had managed it with no staff for 10 years. “Our affiliate would not be here today without that group of hard-working, dedicated volunteers with a vision,” Grip says.
Preserving existing homes is often overlooked as one of the most economical housing option for low-income residents and those with disabilities. “Many of our clients are people whose home is no longer accessible due to their changing mobility needs,” Grip points out. The Safe at Home program—where volunteers install safety aids such as bathroom bars, raised toilet seats, and transfer poles—is an ongoing effort available to people of all income levels. “I just heard from a recipient who said he was able to get up after a fall in the shower by pulling himself up with the grab bar that was installed a month earlier,” Grip says.
“The home safety modifications are provided free of charge for those with low-income or for a fee to those who don’t meet the guidelines,” she continues. “It’s better to prepare the home for aging before it’s needed. Too many of our calls are from people who didn’t prepare and ended up in the hospital because of a fall.”
Typically, participants volunteer on a weekly basis. Each spring, RTS also organizes their biggest Rebuild Event when volunteer teams go out into the community to work together on numerous renovation projects.
By Janet Scherr
HOW TO HELP
Safe at Home: Volunteers help to install minor home safety aids. Learn more by attending a volunteer information meeting and ride along with current volunteers to see if it’s a job that interests you; training is provided amd meeting dates are listed on rebuildingtogethersacramento.org.
Rebuild Events: People of all skill levels are needed. The annual events are great team-building activities for groups of friends and coworkers. Volunteers should be a minimum of 16 years old.