POSTED ON APRIL 25, 2012:
Rebuilding Together Tulsa mends homes and hearts
Rebuilding Together Tulsa's (RTT) motto is "Rebuilding lives and neighborhoods ... making homes safe, secure and weatherproof." This is what they've been doing for over a decade.
According to Kelly Hall, Community Relations Coordinator at RTT, "Rebuilding Together Tulsa was started in 1997 to address the home repair needs of aging homeowners in Tulsa. What started as basically a grassroots movement to provide basic home repairs one day a year, one Saturday in April, has grown to a year-round effort."
On their first annual rebuild day in 1998, RTT and 300 volunteers repaired six homes. When they expanded to year-round projects during their sixth year of service, 21 homes were repaired with help from 519 volunteers. "Last year we did 187 homes and this year we're hoping to reach 200 homeowners with home repairs," Hall said.
"Our mission is to bring volunteers and communities together to improve the homes and lives of low-income home owners, and our vision is a safe and healthy home for every person," Hall said. "All of our work is completely free of charge to the homeowner."
"The majority of our clients are 60 or over, living with a disability, but in 2007 we adopted a neighborhood focus model, which allows us to reach all low-income homeowners in selected neighborhoods," Hall said. This model has made a big difference in concentrated areas. Often, neighbors notice improvements and are inspired to make repairs on their own homes. "This makes a huge impact in helping to end substandard housing in Tulsa in general."
Break it Down
Rebuilding Together Tulsa has four programs: Energy Efficiency, Safe at Home, Roof and R.O.O.T. (Repairs Offered Other Times).
"Our energy efficiency program could include anything from installing CFL light bulbs, attic insulation and water conserving fixtures," Hall said. It also includes weatherizing doors and windows, installing smoke detectors, replacing heating filters, as well as sealing cracks in the walls.
"We have Safe at Home program, which includes things such as wheelchair ramps, grab bars, roll-in showers and anything that provides for the safety of the homeowner," Hall said. Volunteers involved in this program also repair or install exterior handrails and shower seats and replace torn carpet and tile.
"Roofs are our most critical repair for homeowners. It's a repair that must be addressed before any other repair can be made," Hall said. Professional roofers repair or replace roofs as needed.
The R.O.O.T. program handles any other needed repairs not covered by the other programs. According to Hall, "This can include interior/exterior paint, yard cleanup and electrical repairs." It also covers plumbing, door locks, gutter cleaning and more.
As for who receives Rebuilding Together Tulsa's help, there is a list of requirements available on their website, along with an application. Often recipients are referred to RTT by other organizations or agencies, or they hear about them through their neighbors.
Recently 86-year-old Mae Belle Thomas was touched by RTT's helping hands, receiving a new refrigerator and kitchen flooring. "While we were there doing the repairs, she said that it was the greatest Thanksgiving or Christmas present she had ever received. ... It was wonderful to see the gratitude on her face for something that seems so small to so many of us, but made such a huge impact for her," Hall said.
Roll Up Those Sleeves
"All of our work couldn't be done without our great board of directors, our staff, our funders and our volunteers that are all so passionate about providing these repairs for these deserving homeowners. ... There are great opportunities to get involved through either donating or volunteering your time," Hall said.
Rebuilding Together Tulsa accepts both skilled and unskilled volunteers throughout the year. Unskilled volunteers do things like yard cleanup and painting, while skilled volunteers work on projects like building wheelchair ramps and installing grab bars. The type of work a volunteer does depends on their skill level.
RTT is always looking for photography and videography volunteers, who can capture images of homeowners and volunteers during their weekly projects and special events. You could also volunteer to work in their office or interview homeowners about their experience with RTT.
"We have volunteer groups from schools, from associations, from churches and individual groups. Volunteering is a great way to get involved, and it's great for the volunteers to be able to meet the homeowners that they're impacting, and to hear their stories. ... There's so many deserving people in Tulsa that receive our repairs, and it's just great to see the impact this is making on their lives," Hall said.
The largest repair day of the year is the last Saturday in April -- in 2012, it will be Apr. 28. "It's our fifteenth one this year, and we'll be repairing 15 homes on that day, with 15 different volunteer groups," Hall said.
They will also have a third annual golf tournament, in order to raise funds, on June 11, 2012. It will be held at Forest Ridge Golf Club. More information about this fundraiser and other events is available at rebuildingtogethertulsa.org.
A great way to keep up with what's going on at Rebuilding Together Tulsa is to follow their social media sites. They are active on Facebook, Twitter and Linked In, posting photos and videos from current projects, homeowner stories and information about opportunities for Tulsans to get involved.
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