(Mar. 14, 2018) Catherine Read interviews Patti Klein, Executive Director of Rebuilding Together of Arlington, Fairfax and Falls Church. Rebuilding Together is a national non-profit organization that brings volunteers and communities together to improve the homes and lives of low-income homeowners. They mobilize volunteer teams, who visit low-income homeowners to make much needed repairs. Over 80% of their clientele are seniors who are aging in place, and who are on a fixed income. They also work with those who are in vulnerable positions, weather its due to an illness, divorce or loss of a job.
Rebuilding Together was originally known as the Christmas in April program, initiated over 40 years ago. The organization has been re-branded, and now does work year around to help low income homeowners keep up with the demands of their properties. As previously noted, Klein finds most of the people who need their help are seniors who are aging in place. They work closely with Physical and Occupational Therapists who are able to make referrals to the organization when a homeowner is released from the hospital, and might need accommodations in order to return home safely. Klein notes that they also get referrals from both Arlington and Fairfax Counties when homeowners apply for property tax waivers. Additionally, Rebuilding Together appears in the Golden Gazette, a Fairfax County publication geared towards seniors. Klein wants people to know more about their organization, and encourages anyone to make a referral, call the office, or apply online to see if they qualify for services.
Rebuilding Together is a needs-based organization. Applicants must fall at or below 80% of the median income, which in Fairfax County is $52,000 for one person. Once an applicant is approved, Rebuilding Together will send a team out to survey the house and come up with a comprehensive list of improvements that need to be made. Many of the jobs wind up being relatively small, like grab bars, comfort height toilets, or fixing uneven flooring. Once a comprehensive list is made, then they find a sponsor for the project and work with volunteers to get the job done.
Funding for the organization comes from a variety of sources, including corporate and faith-based partners, individual donors and support from both Fairfax and Arlington Counties. Last year Klein notes that they completed 73 projects. These include many homes where aging in place improvements were made, as well as work at homeless shelters, group homes for the developmentally disabled and even a community garden. The average cost of materials for an individual project is around $450.
There are many ways to get involved as a volunteer for Rebuilding Together. Individuals or groups can apply online to be volunteers. Children over the age of 14 are encouraged to get involved, but would need to sign a waiver and be supervised by an adult if under the age of 18. These are ideal projects for scout groups or youth groups who are looking to take on a meaningful project. Each volunteer can be signed up for an email list, so they get a schedule of upcoming jobs, and are able to fill in on an as-needed basis when they are available. Klein notes that they are flexible and willing to work with anyone, even if they only have a little bit of time to give.
With only three full-time and two part-time employees to manage projects on approximately 100 homes, and organize 1200 volunteers on an annual basis, Klein notes that that they do as much as they can with the resources they are given. She encourages everyone to visit their website and to financially support the organization. April 28th marks National Rebuilding Day, their big spring project day when they will rehabilitate up to 30 local homes and will need 15-50 people on each project. Klein encourages all who are interested to reach out and consider getting involved.