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Tuesday, 21 April 2015 09:24

Weekday Warriors

By | News

Dedicated Crew Completes Projects with Rebuilding Together Saratoga County

By Stephanie Hale-Lopez

Saratoga TODAY

 

SARATOGA COUNTY – There’s no doubt Rebuilding Together Saratoga County (RTSC) has made a tremendous difference in the community since its inception 12 years ago.

 

The organization partners with volunteers year round to ensure that homeowners in need can live independently in safe and healthy home. The volunteers strive to build healthy neighborhoods through RTSC’ s three programs: Home Repair – provides critical repairs for low-income homeowners such as weatherizing, plumbing and electrical repairs, patching and painting, cleaning, re-carpeting, siding and landscaping; Safe at Home – home safety assessments, safety and accessibility modifications for low-income homeowners who are older adults or are living with a disability; and Non-Profit Facility/Community Beautification – provides safe and welcoming spaces for communities to gather through renovation and beautification work for community centers, supportive housing facilities and outdoor community spaces. 

 

Michelle Larkin founded RTSC in November 2003 with an informational meeting. The organization has been growing ever since, boasting thousands of volunteers and completing thousands of projects. In 2014 alone, RTSC helped more homeowners in need than ever before, completing a total of 108 home repair projects – along with eight community space projects – a total of 116 projects. 

 

“The best part of it all for me is just knowing someone will be safer, warmer, dryer because of the work we do," said Larkin. "The hugs and thank you notes from the homeowners at the end of a workday make all of us grateful for the opportunity to help and make a difference in the lives of our neighbors."

 

While summer is the organization’s busiest time of year, RTSC does work on projects throughout the year – with the exception of winter, unless it’s an emergency – and Larkin says RTSC relies on a special group of volunteers to help year round. They’re known as Weekday Warriors. 

 

Weekday Warriors are a crew of volunteers who donate their time regularly – often on a weekly or bi-weekly basis – to help homeowners in need. I met with six of them: Betsy Miklas, George VanDeusen, John Grassman, Tom Disinger, Al Peters and John Maxam. 

 

“I like the idea of paying it forward. I’m retired, I have time, I like to help people and I’m a hands-on person,” said Miklas. “It keeps me busy. Right in our own backyard, there are so many people in need and so appreciative of what, to us, might seem like small things.” 

As the saying goes – in helping others, we help ourselves – that cannot be truer for the Weekday Warriors. While the focus of every project is to help homeowners in need, volunteers also benefit from the experience. 

 

“Other than being able to give back and the rewards that that provides, [RTSC] has also provided me with a group of people that I’ve gotten to know who are pretty fantastic. They’re wonderful friends,” adds Disinger. 

 

“It was about 15 years ago that I retired and my wife saw an article in the paper about [RTSC] and she mentioned that it could be something I’d be interested in,” added Peters. “So much of my life has been spent with paperwork and design and so on. [RTSC] has been an opportunity to work with my hands, be physical, give me purpose and give back to the community. It’s something that I enjoy doing.” 

 

Grassman has been volunteering with RTSC for nearly a decade. He first started with a couple of springtime projects and after that, he says he was hooked.

 

“I saw that it was a great way to help the community, we’re all part of the community here and it’s a way to help others right where we live,” said Grassman. “It’s a tremendous organization that has an impact. You look at a lot of other organizations and you invest your money and time into places and you’re not sure where it goes but here, you get the best bang for your buck. We go straight to the person’s home with the materials that we need to help them and it’s just amazing.” 

 

All six volunteers agreed that working with the homeowners and coming face-to-face with the problems/issues that need fixed is exhilarating…especially at the project’s completion, when you can see the final result and the impact it has on the homeowner. 

 

“There are certainly a lot of people in the area that need help fixing their places up,” said Maxam. “We see that on every job we go on. It’s astonishing how much people do need us.” 

 

“Its life changing for the people we help,” added Disinger. “Sometimes, I don’t think we realize the magnitude of what we’ve done.” 

 

VanDeusen adds that the work volunteers put in through RTSC is to improve what politicians consider to be affordable housing. 

 

“You hear a lot of talk on the political level about affordable housing, especially in Saratoga County. Saratoga Springs has a lot of big houses; it’s a very expensive place to live,” said VanDeusen. “But just outside of town are very poor communities. There are projects that we’ve gone on where grandma couldn’t stay there because there wasn’t a ramp or the floor was rotting out. When we repair that, we’re working on affordable housing.” 

 

Rebuilding Together Saratoga County is always looking for more volunteers and the Weekday Warriors say you don’t have to have any particular set of skills or experience. All you need to have is the willingness to donate your time; the rest can be learned. 

 

“You can always use that extra set of hands,” said Miklas. 

 

RTSC is hosting a group of Spring Rebuilding Days to complete various springtime projects and is looking for volunteers to help make a meaningful difference for neighbors in need. The Spring Rebuilding Days are Saturday, April 25 and Sunday, April 26; Saturday, May 2 and Sunday, May 3 as well as Saturday, May 9. 

 

For more information or to sign up to volunteer, contact Michelle Larkin at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 587-3315 and be sure to visit rtsaratoga.org. 

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