2019 Local Stories – Rebuilding Together Notches Another Year
About a dozen volunteers converged on Vaucluse Avenue on April 13 to upgrade a modest ranch-style home in Middletown. Although the rain was pouring down, the weather did not stop the group from their task, as they completed the prep work for a fresh coat of exterior paint, trimmed and pruned a large spruce tree in the front yard, removed brush and planted flowers.
To top it all off, a new roof was installed courtesy of Newport-based A1 Construction and Roofing Company.
The effort was the work of the charity, Rebuilding Together Greater Newport (RTGN), the local chapter of a nationwide organization that is the largest of its kind in the country. Every year, a number of applicants, are given a makeover of their properties. This year, two were selected locally.
Founded in 1973 in Midland, Texas, the organization boasts over 200,000 volunteers in 200 chapters nationwide, and completes more than 10,000 renovation projects every year.
This year’s local volunteers came from various business and organizations, including the First Presbyterian Church, The Newport County Board of Realtors, the Women’s Council of Realtors and the Washington Trust Bank, among others.
Rose, who is 89 and has lived at her home on Vaucluse Avenue since 1962, was ecstatic over the improvements. Sitting at her kitchen table by a window looking out toward Memorial Park, she had high praise for the volunteers.
“They are doing a good job, every one of them,” she said. “I couldn’t afford to do it … the place looks 100 percent better than what it did.”
Co-heading the Middletown project was Meredith LeBlanc, who connected to Rebuild Together through the Women’s Council of Realtors four years ago.
“I think it’s such a great opportunity for us realtors to give back to the community,” she said. “To give people safe homes [is] what everyone wants.
“It’s all about making homes safe and healthy. We want to help [people] have an enjoyable life in their home.”
The team also worked inside the home, adding a new kitchen sink and rethatching ceilings. Electrical work was performed free of charge by M D’Andrea Electric.
Susan McCoy, chair of RTGN, has been with the organization since its inception in 2001. “Warmth and safety [are] our big things,” she said. “We aim to help those who need help [and are] still in their houses.”
McCoy is also the former president of the Newport County Board of Realtors. “We took this on [in 2001] as a project and have been doing it ever since,” she said.
The selection process focuses on low-income residents who either can’t afford the necessary repairs or are too elderly to perform the work themselves.
Donna Feeley, president of the Rhode Island Women’s Council of Realtors, is in her third year volunteering. She spent part of the day planting yellow pansies in planters along the front entrance walkway.
Although the rain prevented the group from finishing the paint job, they will be returning on April 27 to complete the work.
“They don’t know how much I appreciate what they are doing,” said Rose.
Across town, the Kiwanis Club of Newport and a group of Salve Regina University students are sponsoring the other approved project at a home on King Road.
Fulvio Pires, owner of Pires and Sons, donated the labor and materials toward building a backyard fence for Erica, a single mother with two young children, including 4-year-old Ronan, who has autism.
“We needed a fence for our yard so he could play without running off,” she said.
Volunteers at the King Road location also repainted the children’s bedrooms, added a window guard to Ronan’s room and completed minor plumbing work. They also installed a new water heater, which Erica said “was a big deal.”
Pires praised Rebuild Together’s fundraising efforts, and plans to continue assisting in future projects. “Sometimes people just need the reminder that there still is a lot of good out there,” he said.
2018 Local News Stories
Volunteers Rebuilding Together
(2018-05-03 / Around Town | Newport This Week)
Two local homes were given some TLC on April 28 by Rebuilding Together Greater Newport volunteers as part of ongoing efforts to assist low-income or disabled homeowners, particularly those who are elderly, or are families with children.
Organizer Susan McCoy has led the Rebuilding Together initiative in Newport County since opening a Newport affiliate nearly two decades ago. “Today, there are 33,000 volunteers [across the country],” she said. The organization’s vision is a “a safe and healthy home for every person.”
“This is just wonderful. I’m very grateful,” said Lynn (first names only), one of the homeowners.
The program, which started in 1973 in Midland, Texas, opened its national office in 1988, and since then has become a leading nonprofit community revitalization organization, with affiliates all over the country completing 10,000 projects a year.
At the Pond Avenue home, where Lynn and her sister live, about a dozen volunteers from the First Presbyterian Church painted and replaced downspouts and several windows. They were joined by volunteers from the Newport County Board of Realtors, who planted flowers, cleaned up the yard and organized and cleaned the basement.
Nearly 15 Salve Regina University students and several members from the Newport Kiwanis Club volunteered at the Appleby Street house, the second residence selected.
Salve has been involved with Rebuilding Together for nearly 18 years. “This is the first time I’ve done this,” Salve junior Aysia Reese said. “I looked on the school’s community service section online and saw this. I wanted a way to give back to the community. It’s been great to meet different people. I’ve even gotten to know other Salve students.”
Judi Smith, a long-time Rebuilding volunteer, echoed that sentiment. “The lady who lives here has been here over 65 years,” she said. “I’m totally glad that we can help with the goal to keep her safe, warm and dry for as long as possible.”
Kathleen Rendos, Kiwanis volunteer coordinator, said this was the third year the club has participated, and added, “We like to come together, get to know each other, and see what we can do as volunteers.”
The application process for homeowners begins in November, and the property owner needs to be considered low-income or disabled and pledges that the property will not be sold within two years after completion of repairs. After a home is selected, the to-do list is compiled. An estimated $5,000 is spent on each home, with the work being completed in one day.
Many of the repairs and tasks, such as electrical or roof work, require professional skills. “Rebuilding is always thankful for contractors who volunteer their service. There are many types of repairs that cannot be performed by the lay volunteer,” McCoy said.
The professional rehab for the two Newport homes this year was provided by Behan Bros. and Fulvio Pires contractors.
“I grew up in the neighborhood,” said Lynn. “And in August I will have owned this house for 30 years.” – NTW Staff
Mayor Harry Winthrop, center, joined the Rebuilding Together Greater Newport team at 11 Appleby St. on Saturday. The house sponsors were Behan Brothers Construction, Salve Regina University, and the Kiwanis Club. [PHOTOS BY PETER SILVIA PHOTOGRAPHY]
Salve Regina senior Amy Shea drills holes for mounting brackets to install blinds at 11 Appleby St. as senior Hannah Reis looks on holding screws.
Sharon Foster volunteered to help with painting the porch at 2 1/2 Pond Ave. in Newport on a rebuild project sponsored by Fulvio Pires, contractor, with volunteers from Newport County Board of Realtors and First Presbyterian Church.
2017 Local News Stories – links below
2017 Local News Stories – links below