April 29, 2017 “Rebuilding Together Greater Newport “

April 29, 2017 “Rebuilding Together Greater Newport “

Community building” By Laura Damon | Staff writer | May 1, 2017  (NewportRI.com)

Rebuilding Together Greater Newport, the only local affiliate in Rhode Island, sent crews of volunteers to two local homes Saturday to do just that.

“Providence had a huge presence, but they closed two years ago,” said Susan McCoy, chairwoman of the board of directors for Rebuilding Together Greater Newport.

The last Saturday of April is the organization’s National Day of Service, when local affiliates complete renovations. In Newport, about 20 volunteers worked at 18 Houston Ave., the home of John and Michelle Brennan, their 9-year-old daughter Bailey, a fourth-grader at Pell Elementary School, and their dog, Chewbacca.

rebuilding 5Rebuilding Together Greater Newport assisting local families whose homes are in need of repair. One of the recipients in this year’s program is a family in Newport’s Fifth Ward living in an old Sears home. Women’s Council Realtors, working on the bedroom of the 9 year old daughter, On top of the bed, Cathi Leary, from left, Meredith LeBlanc, Nancy Rutter, Shannon Buss, Melissa Green, Kim Wooten, Donna Feeley. Photo: Michael Salerno

Although he underwent successful surgery to seal the hole in 2015, Brennan suffers from vertigo and other neurological damage that left him unable to continue as a pharmacy technician at CVS on Bellevue Avenue, where he worked, or to maintain his home properly.

“If I didn’t live in Newport I don’t know if I’d have as great a community support group,” he wrote in an email. “Since I’ve been sick the people have been helping me in a lot of ways.

“The house is 130 years old. I always did the renovations myself,” but no longer am able.

The Rebuilding Together volunteers at Houston Avenue consisted of Newport County Board of Realtors and their affiliates, McCoy said. Hurd Construction of Portsmouth donated its professional services.

Walter Peabody of Hurd Construction spent hours refurbishing the stairs on the front porch. “They were in pretty rough shape,” he said.

Other renovations included replacing nine windows and two ceilings, cleaning the yard and the house’s exterior walls, and renovating Bailey Brennan’s bedroom.

“The Women’s Council of Realtors is doing Bailey’s room,” said Shannon Buss, the group’s regional vice president.

Volunteers painted the walls and added a new desk and chair to the bedroom.

Annie Becker, president of the Newport County Board of Realtors, said the group donates money to Rebuilding Together projects every year. The Houston Avenue project received grants from Lowe’s and the Rhode Island Association of Realtors Foundation, she said.

On average, Rebuilding Together Greater Newport provides services to families with an annual income of approximately $18,000, McCoy said.

“We have a lawyer on board” to check the financial forms and verify the income, she said. Homeowners submit applications in November.

Rebuilding Together Greater Newport does not provide follow-up maintenance work because of limited supplies and volunteers, McCoy said.

“It’s my second year. I think it’s a great give back to the community,” said Daniele Alsheimer, a volunteer from Middletown. “It’s great to see a family like John’s be so appreciative of what we’re doing.”

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