Nonprofit offers free repairs to elderly, disabled, low-income residents

rebuilding-together-pic-2.jpgBY NICK DIAMANTIDES
Staff Writer

For the past 16 years, nonprofit organization Rebuilding Together Long Beach (RTLB) has undertaken renovations, free of charge, to the homes of local low-income residents and the buildings of other nonprofit groups.
“Our organization has provided the Long Beach community over $2.2 million worth of volunteer labor, in kind donations and services,” said Diane Anglin, RTLB president. “We have revitalized over 200 homes, providing desperately needed wheelchair ramps, functioning utilities, and safety and comfort.” Anglin noted that while RTLB is proud of its successes, much more work remains to be done.
“We have been in Long Beach since 1992, yet we seem to be one of the city’s best kept secrets,” added Kirsten Larsen, a member of RTLB’s board of directors. “We are really trying to get the word out, and we really need people to help us plan and coordinate all that we do.”
Last Saturday, Anglin and Larsen spoke at a breakfast at The Grand on Willow Street just east of Redondo Avenue. Only about 25 people attended the event, but several of them made commitments to participate in RTLB planning and the rest took home literature describing the history, goals and accomplishments of the organization.
RTLB is the local affiliate of Rebuilding Together, a national organization that was founded in 1987. With more than 200 affiliates nationwide, the organization works to preserve affordable home ownership and revitalize neighborhoods by bringing together volunteers and communities to rehabilitate the homes of low-income homeowners.
Anglin noted that America currently has 24 million low-income homeowners and that number grows every year. “More and more families are placed in the position of choosing between vital necessities over essential home repairs and modifications,” she emphasized. “Recipients of (Rebuilding Together) services include the disabled and elderly, at-risk families with children, homeowners displaced by natural disaster, and our nation’s military, both veterans and those on active duty.”
After their introductory comments, Anglin and Larsen showed a video of some of the national organization’s accomplishments. It began with the interview of a couple that appeared to be in their early 60s. The woman had suffered a stroke that left her partially disabled. As a result, she had difficultly doing simple things like getting up and down stairs or opening doors.
Soon after her stroke, her husband had a heart transplant and her son-in-law came down with multiple sclerosis. “There was so much fear about losing our home because our medication was so expensive,” she said. “And our son-in-law who could not work anymore was coming here for visits but it was so hard to get him and his wheelchair into our house.”
The video showed the house before and after Rebuilding Together volunteers built a wheelchair ramp, worked on the doors to make them easier to open, and undertook other renovations to make the house safer and more comfortable for the couple.
“There but for the grace of God go you and I,” said Patty Johnson, national president and CEO of Rebuild Together when she appeared in a portion of the video. She explained that a devastating illness, disaster, or financial setback could make it next to impossible for any homeowner to afford necessary improvements to their home. “We have got to step up our efforts to do more for low-income homeowners in America,” Johnson stressed.
Anglin noted that RTLB currently only has two work days during the year, during which about 700 volunteers fan out throughout the city to rebuild roofs and stairways, install furnaces, replace faulty pluming and electrical components, improve walkways, build wheelchair ramps, install smoke detectors and undertake other renovations that make life safer and easier for local residents. The two work days are National Rebuild Day on the last Saturday of April and National Make a Difference Day on the third Saturday of October.
“We have three construction companies whose employees do all the repair and renovations,” said Peter Glaeser, another RTLB board member. “What we really need is organizers, planners and managers to help us coordinate the two work days.”
Anglin agreed, noting that all board members are volunteers that either have full-time jobs or own their own companies. She noted that planning and coordinating the work days is a big undertaking and if more people participated, everyone’s workload would be lighter and more could be accomplished.
“We look continually for new ideas, while embracing old ideas that work,” she added. “We are ready for change, as we have always been, continually evolving and striving to be the best organization we can be, serving not only Long Beach’s needy homeowners but healing neighborhoods and forging lasting bonds between neighbors and communities.”
For information on how to help RTLB or to find out how the organization can help with home renovations, phone (562) 490-3802 or send an email to info@rebuildingtogetherlongbeach.org.

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