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Rebuilding Together Charleston provides services for area homeowners

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As part of a national volunteer program, Rebuilding Together Charleston provides rehabilitation services to low-income, elderly and disabled residents of Putnam and Kanawha counties.

Homeowners who cannot afford to hire workers and do not have the physical ability to do the work themselves are eligible for Rebuilding Together Charleston support.

Allison Brill of Charleston joined Rebuilding Together Charleston as its executive director last September. She described the history of the organization and some of the projects it makes available to qualifying residents of the two counties.

“Rebuilding Together is a national organization with over 170 affiliates,” she said last week. “We started out as Christmas in April. Actually, it began in Texas, of all places. These people were neighbors seeing a lot of need around their area. They got together in Midland, Texas. They did groups of projects in April, which is a great month to do repair work.”

A national office was opened in 1988, Brill said. “As a national nonprofit, we have over 100,000 volunteers who do 10,000 rebuild projects nationwide each year.”

Rebuilding Together Charleston is the only affiliate in West Virginia and serves Kanawha and Putnam counties exclusively, she said. The local program was launched by RTC President Dayton Carpenter in the mid-1990s.

“We’ve been here for quite some time,” Brill said. “Our mission — and our position — is to make homes warm, safe and dry. We mainly do them for elderly, low-income people. There is an application process. They can find it online or call into our office.

“If they meet our criteria,” she said, “and they go through the screening process, we can help them at pretty much no cost. We use volunteers, mainly during the summer, but we’re building up to do that all year round.

“We do emergency projects, such as heat in the fall, cooling in the summer. We do roofing. There’s a need and we’re trying to fill that need,” Brill said.

Other projects Rebuilding Together Charleston volunteers tackle include constructing wheelchair ramps and making bathrooms handicap accessible, she said.

“Many homes here in the Kanawha Valley are just old and small. We try to help those people stay in their homes and age in place; that’s a big thing for us.”

While volunteers can’t undertake major home repairs, such as foundation work, Brill said they will refer homeowners to possibly affordable professions who can. “We have a good referral program.

“We do a little light work, such as painting, and we’re close partners with Faith in Action of the Greater Kanawha Valley,” said Brill. Faith in Action of the Greater Kanawha Valley trains and assigns volunteers to help Putnam and Kanawha senior citizens with assistance such as performing various errands and providing transportation to doctors’ visits.

She noted that volunteers of various skill levels are always encouraged to pitch in on projects.

“We have volunteers who do things such as rewiring a light fixture or who can install plumbing or something as simple as painting. We accept all skill types. If they can do something, we’re willing to find them work, because there is work that needs to be done. With plumbing and stuff ... if you fix a leaky faucet in your house, then you can do it in someone else’s,” Brill said.

“It’s how we work — people wanting to help their neighbors. We usually help about 100 people a year.”

Applications for Rebuilding Together Charleston assistance are available at Hurricane City Hall. Those interested can also apply and obtain more information by calling Rebuilding Together Charleston at 304-343-4663, emailing info@rtwv.org or visiting the website, www.rtwv.org

Potential volunteers can also contact Rebuilding Together Charleston at the outlets above.

Metro reporter Clint Thomas can be reached at cthomas@cnpapers.com or by calling 304-348-1232.

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