CORRECTION: TO CONTACT REBUILDING TOGETHER SARATOGA COUNTY, CALL 518 -587 -3315.
Rebuilding Together Helping Elderly, Low-Income Families Repair Their Homes
By Colette Linton
SARATOGA SPRINGS— Linda Kahn, whose welcoming personality is as warm and welcoming as her home in Saratoga Springs, turns 90 years young next month in a house that she’s lived in for 57 years.
She boasts its three rooms saying that they are “for when the kids come over to visit” which they will be soon to celebrate her birthday.
Also, after a volunteer crew with Rebuilding Together Saratoga installed a new bathroom, repaired the circuit breaker and electric wiring in her home, installed hand rails in the bathroom and going down the stairs leading into the basement, she is now prouder than ever of what the community is able to do.
“In the kitchen, I couldn’t use the microwave and the toaster oven at the same time. I’d blow a fuse,” Kahn said. “When we bought the house it was like a shell. It had wood floors that were rotted. It had nothing.”
Kahn sent an application to Rebuilding Together of Saratoga County after she heard from someone else of the quality of the home repairs and installations they complete.
Soon she saw the group’s workmanship for herself.
“I had a doctor’s appointment first thing in the morning, and I came home and there were dozens, at least 20 (volunteers),” she said. “It was fantastic. Off and on they would (be here) because these were volunteers, professional, unbelievable people. I didn’t even have to hang around for them. It was that kind of honest, nice caliber.”
Since then she’s helped to persuade others to consider applying.
The assistance Rebuilding Together provides helps to maintain a safe and comfortable atmosphere for its applicants. In this way, it may even help the elderly stay in their homes longer.
“That’s a lot of the work that we are doing now is helping elderly folks with their home repairs to keep them safe in their homes,” said Executive Director of Rebuilding Together Saratoga Michelle Larkin. “I’d like to say to people as an elderly person that I’m sure that throughout your life you’ve helped plenty of people; so, now is an opportunity for the community to help you.”
Sometimes the elderly may be a little more hesitant to reach out to an organization such as Rebuilding Together, Larkin said.
“Maybe they’re very independent. They’re used to taking care of themselves and the struggle is that they want to stay in their home but they just need an ADA toilet,” Larkin said. “That may be something where we could be really helpful so that they can stay in their home.”
Rebuilding Together is nearly limitless in the ways in which its hired contractors and volunteers can assist a home owner at no charge to them. When an application is submitted, Rebuilding Together previews the applicant’s house to observe and make suggestions about where repairs can be made.
“Maybe they need a voluntary OT (occupational therapist) to go out and look at their home and make some suggestions,” Larkin said. “Maybe we could move some furniture. Are there trip hazards? Do they need a ramp? Do they need a low-threshold shower unit?”
“There are all kinds of things that could be looked at in the environment,” she said.
Since the renovations were completed at her home, Kahn has found even more reasons to be proud of her home and community.
“Oh definitely,” she said about the improvements and her increased independence. “I needed the high-rise toilets and the grab bars. I feel very secure there.”
“It’s a warm community,” she said. “There are so many lovely people who are caring and giving of themselves.”
Last year, Rebuilding Together completed 90 sites, or 80 homes and 10 nonprofit facilities. They had a total of 1004 volunteers, who worked a total of 5,592 hours. Since its inception in 2003, they have completed 559 projects and served 1026 people.
This year’s spring workdays for volunteers are approaching quickly and are scheduled for April 26 and 27, May 3 and 4, and May 10. For individuals interested in contributing, but are unable to volunteer this season, there is option of being the ‘pizza patron’. The pizza patron becomes the darling of the day by providing lunch for a volunteer crew for $25.
Rebuilding Together requires that applicants prove household income and that the applicant lives in Saratoga County. All applicants are previewed within a couple of months. Projects that are accepted are generally started within a year of the application.