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Non-Profit Rebuilding Together Helps With Home Repairs
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The Columbus city attorney recent declared the city has a “vacancy epidemic”. At last count Richard Pfieffer identified more than 6,000 homes that have been abandoned…900 of which will eventually be torn down. But one Central Ohio non-profit agency wants to nip the problem in the bud by providing home owners with the tools and knowledge they need to keep their homes from falling into disrepair.
It could start out as a small leak or a broken railing. Left unattended minor home repairs can eventually result in a neglected or blighted property. The group Rebuilding Together Central Ohio wants to help home owners tackle repairs and routine maintenance early before a house turns into an eyesore. To that end Executive Director Julie Smith says Rebuilding Together took over the city’s tool library three years ago and opened it up to all homeowners in Franklin county.
“It’s just like going to borrow a book except when you come here you can borrow a rototiller or a lawn mower or a hammer or a reciprocating saw. It works just like borrowing at the public library.”
Tool Library Coordinator Jonathan Duffy says lawn care and landscaping tools are among the most popular.
“The past year, 2011 they accounted for about 25 percent of our total tool loans. That doesn’t include our larger equipment including lawnmowers and rototillers which are also just as popular.”
Rebuilding Together owns more than a million dollars worth of tools many of which were donated by big box stores and homeowners who are downsizing. The number of tool loans doubled last year over 2010 and Julie Smith anticipates additional growth this year. While the group receives about $30 thousand dollars in county grant money most of their funding comes from private sources.
But some homeowners are unable to use the tools. Smith says each year hundreds of volunteers help a hundred so elderly or disabled homeowners through the group’s “Safe at Home” program.
“Nobody wants to move into a house where there’s neglect next door and we work with those homeowners who have been there thirty years or more and want to age in place, need to be able to age in place safely and our volunteers help them do that which makes them good neighbors.”
Suffering from chronic back pain and living on a fixed income 74-year old Hazel Washington was unable to keep up with the mounting list of repairs needed to her modest, eastside ranch.Â Last year, Washington’s home was chosen by “Safe at Home” volunteers who offered to fix many problems in Washington’s home of 32 years.
“There was no carpeting on the floor, definitely needed painting , there were many things that needed repair, the garbage disposal didn’t work, the old porcelain sink
no matter if you soaked it in bleach or what have you it wouldn’t whiten up.
“My railings outside they were falling apart. They were weak so anyone would lean against them I could of had a lawsuit against me…..”
A small army of volunteers including lawyers, business people, electricians and plumbersÂ from some of the city’s largest corporations and unions descended on the house laying flooring, painting, installing light fixtures, repairing the plumbing, cleaning up the yard and planting flowers.
“So when your neighbors ask you ‘Who were these people that came in and did all this work?’ What do you tell them? “I tell them that they were God’s angels…”