On May 22, Rebuilding Together Fox Valley (RTFV) is set to rebuild or repair 174 households in need of critical repairs for its 21st annual National Rebuilding Day.
Inspired by National Rebuilding Month, which originated in Midland, Texas, in 1973, the local rebuild day is a nonprofit, donor-funded initiative which brings in volunteers from all over the Fox Valley.
“Everybody wants to help chip in and really try to make a difference,” says Joe Trueheart, RTFV president of the board. “That is that support pretty powerful thing at the end of the day when people stay in their houses and thrive.”
RTFV provides a critical lifeline for homeowners who otherwise could not afford to make needed repairs. To qualify, homeowners’ income must be 80% of the median level for their county, and RTFV prioritizes older adults, people with disabilities, veterans and families with children.
Frequently, volunteers also work across the variety of Fox Cities construction businesses, but anyone can get involved. Trueheart, who works at Hoffman Planning, Design & Construction, worked with volunteers from a competing firm, The Boldt Company, to provide needed services for an elderly man, his bedridden wife, and their son who has autism. Their house had no running water and the roof leaked.
“We were able to go in there and get the upstairs bathroom totally renovated and operational. So the new toilet, new top and plumbing, everything was working great,” Trueheart says.
Wood says that one obstacle to helping everyone possible, especially among older adults, is a resistance to ask for help.
“There’s an intense amount of pride and that self-reliance out there, which can be a great thing, but it can also be dangerous because you might ignore some health hazards in your house,” Wood says.
Similarly, many are unaware or skeptical that RTFV’s services are free.
“A lot of people can’t accept that. They’re like, well, what’s the catch? When am I going to get the bill? One of the challenges is spreading awareness that there’s some amazing people in this community that care for you.”
Volunteer slots for National Rebuild Day fill up fast, and are booked for this year’s event, but for those interested in getting involved, Wood says RTFV is always looking for volunteers for their Second Saturday events, which is a smaller-scale rebuilding event that happens every second Saturday of the month. Registration is available on rtfv.org.