Wells Fargo money well spent.

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During Event day 2014, Rebuilding Together received a check of $10,000 from Wells Fargo Bank and we all remember the publicity we received with this fun ceremony. Nice pictures were taken and KFOX spent during several occasions time on our program. Most of all the volunteers of Wells Fargo did a great job in cleaning up the yard, where the homeowner had collected over the years a container full of items. While a number of strong guys were cleaning up the yard, other careful hands were painting the walls. The whole team had tremendous fun and the homeowner and his wife had also the day of   their life, expressed by her daughter in her letter to us about the impact that Event Day had on  her parents, owners of a home that was repaired, by saying, “We are beyond lucky. This is actually not an end to the process, but I think (I hope) this day will be a new beginning for my mom and dad.”

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In the mean time we have been dedicating the Wells Fargo money to two homeowners and hearing their stories will give us a good feeling that the money is well spent.

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Epifania A. of Jackson Ave is one of the beneficiaries. Amy, our social media specialist visited Epifania at her home and here is her story.

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At first glance it doesn’t look like much, but Epifania Aranda, 71, takes great pride in her home. She beamed when describing how she was a renter all her life until buying her home over twenty years ago. Empty flower pots hang by the front door, and the fruit trees she dreamed would keep her husband occupied in the yard never took root, but these little touches give way to the fact that Epifania is doing the best that she can.

 

The majority of her time is accounted for by taking care of her husband. He has been on dialysis for nine years and currently attends three four-hour sessions each week. Epifania isn’t in the best health herself, suffering from arthritis, hypertension, and back pain after nearly thirty years of working in food services at a local school, a job she loved but retired from in December.

She shares the home with her husband (80), her daughter (41), and two grandchildren (9 and 7). The bathroom that the five of them share needs repair. The tiles on the bottom of the shower are broken, and Epifania suspects that there are problems with the pipes as well. When anyone takes a shower, water leaks all over the floor of the tiny space. They currently use towels to soak up the water, and then pile them in the only sink. The floors are starting to rot as a result. Because her husband uses a walker, grab bars would also be a welcome addition to the bathroom.

When asked what else needs to be done, Epifania shrugs or tosses up her hands. She said that she didn’t want to ask for too much and that the shower was really all that she needed. We did see a broken kitchen floor and a few broken windows around the home and reluctantly she agreed that those could be fixed as well.

 

Listening to a story like this makes you get tears in your eyes. Well, Rebuilding Together did step in. Our Home Review Chair, Raul Trajeda made a Scope of Work for the project and Bob McCrae, our Contractor Liaison sent one of our best contractors to the home of Epifania. Spending some $4400 made things so much better for Epifania and her family. We did not only helped one homeowner but a family of five. We thank Wells Fargo for making this possible

The story of Gloria C. of Ben Swain is even more heartbreaking.

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Gloria is 81 years old, she has dementia and her son of 38 has  Down Syndrome. Knowing this you get concerned that they might not have the support to live a normal life, certainly staying in a older home, where things get worn out. Matters get worse when you know that at night they are partly living in the dark, because their electricity system has been overcharged. Besides that, their plumbing is a mess. Fortunately Gloria has two daughters who can take turns helping out. But they have their own burden, since one of them is fighting cancer. Some people get the brunt of misery in this world and we feel humbled that we can offer some help, to get them light at night and have their water flowing again.

Rebuilding Together and its contractors were able to step in to help Gloria and her son by having the Wells Fargo funds available. Fortunately the plumbing problems have been addressed.

 

RTEP is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, which exist for charitable, educational, scientific, religious or literary purposes. In our case obviously a charitable purpose. Although our purpose is not to make profit, rather to help low income elderly and or disabled people, we still run a profit and loss account. We have an “income” by the grants and donations we receive and we have costs for the repairs at the homes which we assist, renting the warehouse, paying our contribution to the national organization and some other costs. We need to take care that we don’t spend more than what we receive and our organization has been very successful doing this year after year. So managing the organization financially is an important task, just like with any other company. The Treasurer plays an important role in this responsibility. We can be proud that we are able allocate some 93% of our total budget to the repair of the homes, which is our primary goal.

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Rebuilding Together might be well known by the community as that organization which paints homes with volunteers, but less visible is all the work which goes into the preparation.

First the painting is just the finishing touch to projects which entail repairs in plumbing, electricity, roofs, walls and floors as well as safety related work such as the installation of grab bars, rails or conversion of tubs into showers.

In order to organize these activities we have a working Board of Directors, each with responsibility to oversee and complete a specific task. A very important task is the Home Selection and Review, obviously active in the process from receiving the application to qualifying a homeowner. The Contractor Liaison takes over after the qualification to plan the project and to get the skilled labor of contractors arranged. When it comes to painting, the Home Liaison Chair and the Volunteer Chair in the Board spring into action and to organize a volunteer team as well as arrange for a home liaison, as special volunteer who can act as he project leader for a specific home.

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We have a warehouse to provide all the materials, like paint, brushes, rollers and tape as well as ladders; this warehouse falls under the responsibility of the the Warehouse Chair, while the one who takes care that the materials are available is the Logistic Chair.

We would like to have as much publicity as possible to get support from donors and volunteers; this activity is in the hands of the Public Relations Chair, while the Fundraising Chair works on the grants and other fundraisers.

Representing our organization in the community is important and there are plenty of opportunities for this. First we have the relationship with the Department of Community Development of the City of El Paso, our main sponsor. Every year we have to compete with other non-profits in El Paso in the grant distribution; we have to provide quite some documentation and plans to justify. We are proud that we have a good relationship with the Community Development Department and that the City has quite some confidence in our performance.

We work to promote our activities as well under the Social and Health organizations. It is especially these people who through their good work interact with our target group, the low income elderly and disable people. They see the challenges these elderly people are confronted with; these social and health workers have to be made aware what role Rebuilding Together can play to help and what the qualification criteria are.

 

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We like to represent our organization at conferences, at fairs and events like the Bienvenido event at Fort Bliss, when volunteering for the community is promoted. In early October we will at the 7th Annual Crimes Against the Elderly Conference – Tuesday, October 7, 2014 and we will be present at at table or booth to give further explanations about our organization.

We welcome anyone’s support, whether be it a donor or sponsor, a volunteer at Event Day or as member of a committee or the Board. The low income homeowners in El Paso need your support.

 

On September 12, 2013 the torrential rain hit hard in Socorro. Whole parts of the city were flooded, cars got stuck in the mud and water and many residents experienced the real  disaster of water and mud entering their homes. Shortly after this flooding,  County Judge Veronica Escobar declared the State of Emergency for the City of Socorro. Also Governor Rick Perry ordered in October 2013 the Deputy Commissioner of Texas Department of Agriculture “to make available to the citizens of El Paso County any and all assistance which they may be eligible under emergency circumstances.”

 

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Many organizations sprang to help to provide support to the affected people. Also Rebuilding Together El Paso, stepped in and focussed on the support in which it is at its best. Although the charter of Rebuilding Together El Paso was limited  to provide support within the City of El Paso, special funds were obtained to finance the activities in Socorro. Also our “volunteers without borders” could be mobilized.

By the end of the year we had helped several homeowners by replacing  sheetrock walls, which were damaged by the incoming mud. As you can imagine when a City cleans up after such a disaster a lot of trash accumulates and with the help of volunteers of Team Red White and Blue of Fort Bliss and the Bethel Bible Church the trash was removed. Cleaning up is part of our basic activities, but this time it was quite an unusual activity to work with such heavy equipment.

SOCORRO CLEAN-UP JAN. 25, 2014SOCORRO CLEAN-UP Team

 

The activities of the National Rebuilding Event Day and reorganizations in the Board put a halt on our capacity to  help, but now we have taken up again our explorations of the needs. Our new Director for Home Review Raul Grajeda and Roger de Moor started several exploration trips to Socorro and visited affected families. One visit stood out when we met the sisters Beth and Julia in one of the backstreets of the spread out city. Finally finding the address, we were greeted by an enthusiastic golden retriever, who immediately understood that we were friendly people. The wooden house made a welcoming impression and the sisters invited us in to investigate the damages at their home. The flood water had come in through the doors and ceiling, leaving its marks like you can observe in the pictures below. In order to avoid falling through the floor they had on four or five places boards under the carpet.

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Joe, the homeowner and husband of one of the sisters, was at the hospital during our visit and we only can hope that this was not related to the unsafe situation in his home. There were not only damages at the floor, but also the wall in a cupboard came apart, creating an electrocution hazard .

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In the mean time Rebuilding Together El Paso has amended its Bylaws, as to support also activities in Socorro, as part of the County of El Paso. This is under the condition that the grant provider who’s money we use must allow for it.

Socorro, has in the mean time recovered to a large extend. The city is cleaned up and many citizens are with the help of  support organizations like Rebuilding Together put on their feet again. The next picture mind remind us that it is sometimes a challenge to keep our feet dry.

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Who We Help

Earlier this month we applied for a grant with the hope of helping some very deserving families improve the living conditions in their homes. We’re still waiting to hear if we will get the money needed to make the repairs, but in the meantime, we wanted to share their stories. When you consider donating with us, these are the people in our community whose lives you are touching.

Epifania

At first glance it doesn’t look like much, but Epifania, 71, takes great pride in her home. She beamed when describing how she was a renter all her life until buying her home over twenty years ago. Empty flower pots hang by the front door, and the fruit trees she dreamed would keep her husband occupied in the yard never took root, but these little touches give way to the fact that Epifania is doing the best that she can.

The majority of her time is accounted for by taking care of her husband. He has been on dialysis for nine years and currently attends three four-hour sessions each week. Epifania isn’t in the best health herself, suffering from arthritis, hypertension, and back pain after nearly thirty years of working in food services at a local school, a job she loved but retired from in December.

She lives in the home with her husband (80), her daughter (41), and two grandchildren (9 and 7). The bathroom that the five of them share needs repair. The tiles on the bottom of the shower are broken, and Epifania suspects that there are problems with the pipes as well. When anyone takes a shower, water leaks all over the floor of the tiny space. They currently use towels to soak up the water, and then pile them in the only sink. The floors are starting to rot as a result. Because her husband uses a walker, grip bars would also be a welcome addition.

When asked what else needs to be done, Epifania would shrug or toss up her hands. She said that she didn’t want to ask for too much and that the shower was really all that she needed. We did see a few broken windows around the home and reluctantly she agreed that those could be fixed as well.

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Snapshots of Epifania's bathroom, shared by five people.

Snapshots of Epifania’s bathroom, shared by five people.

Consuelo

Consuelo, 75, has lived in El Paso for most of her life, and for the last thirty five years, she has lived in the same house on San Jose Road. The pink walls and menagerie of pets liven up the space that is neatly kept and shared with her granddaughter (26) and great-grandson (6).

Regardless of the lovely appearance of the home, there are major problems in the sole bathroom. Three of the walls around the shower/bathtub are missing a significant number of tiles. The family has managed to hang plastic around the area, but water leaks out in large amounts causing mold to form around the bathroom. When asked how long the bathroom has been like this, Consuelo quietly told us ten years “mas o menos.”

After years of working for companies like Levi’s and Atari, Consuelo moves a little slower and her body is a little stiff. She looks forward to long soaks in the bathtub, but the longer the tiles have been missing, the worse the mold problem has gotten.

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Consuelo's bathroom. The tarp has been covering up missing tiles for approximately ten years now.

Consuelo’s bathroom. The tarp has been covering up missing tiles for approximately ten years now.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. These families are only two examples of what we see on a daily basis. We take their struggles to heart, and we hope you’ll do the same. If you’re interested in making a difference in their lives, consider visiting our donation page or you can contact us if you’re interested in volunteering with RTEP.

A quick look around our blog archives and you’ll find stories from family members and homeowners we’ve helped, volunteers who have served alongside us for years, and the good work of our fellow affiliates across the country. Our hope is that seeing the positive impact of Rebuilding Together will spur you to action. Feeling like you want to help? Here’s how you can get involved:

Join our board or serve as a committee member

Sylvia and Gloria, two of our long-time board members.

Gloria and Sylvia, two of our long-time board members.

majority of the decision making, planning, and the execution of our projects comes from our executive board at bi-monthly meetings. As Event Day nears, the board meets more regularly to ensure that things go smoothly. Currently, there is an opening for our Logistics Chairperson. Every so often, additional chair positions become vacant. Keep your eyes on our Board of Directors page or contact us if you are interested in a board position. Although many on our board have served for years, we are always open to fresh ideas and new members.

Perhaps you want to be involved but want to start in a smaller role. If that’s the case, you could be a committee member. Committee members attend board meetings and coordinate with their specific chair to complete tasks. It’s a great way to volunteer your time without as making quite as much of a commitment to start.

Plan to help out on Event Day

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Participating in Event Day doesn’t require any particularly skills or know-how. All that is necessary is a willingness to help and making yourself available on National Rebuilding Day. (That will be April 25, 2015.) General volunteers will be assigned a team. You’re welcome to join us the night before as part of our big kickoff celebration, but otherwise, you’ll only be asked to give your time on the day of.

If Event Day is your thing, but you are able to give a little bit more of yourself, consider being a Team Leader or Home Liaison. Team Leaders rally together a group of friends or coworkers, who will all work on one particular house together. The Team Leader ensures that everyone shows up, assists with paperwork, and coordinates with the Home Liaison. Home Liaisons are the point people on each job. They meet with their assigned homeowner in advance, keep the team on track during the event, and make sure everything is to the homeowner’s standard before the end of the day. This position requires your attendance at a few additional events before hand, but I can personally attest to how rewarding a position it is.

Donate or attend our fundraiser

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Sometimes we wish to help, but we are unable to give our time. When that’s the case, we’d encourage you to get involved by donating. Our fall fundraiser is still in the works with details to come soon. In the meantime, you make a tax-deductible donation by clicking here. When considering donating to our cause, keep in mind that we are non-profit, non-sectarian, and we are completely supported by donations. Every dollar given is a wisely spent investment in building a better America.

Contact us

Rebuilding Together Philadelphia

Photo courtesy of Rebuilding Together Philadelphia.

If you have a special skill that you think could benefit our organization, we’d love to hear about it! We often build partnerships through word of mouth and chance encounters. If you have something special to bring to the table, even though it isn’t listed here, we can find a place for you. Leave a comment here or visit the contact us page.

August Newsletter

Our August newsletter is hot off the presses! The latest news and updates from the last few months have been compiled in one convenient place for your reading pleasure.

This month we are talking about:

  • An update on our plans with the City of El Paso for districts two and four.
  • A brief biography of Karin Smith, our board treasurer
  • An introduction to Raul Grajeda, our new Home Review Director
  • Our thank you to Wells Fargo for their continued support
  • And more!
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You can read the newsletter by clicking below:

August Newsletter

If you want to receive the newsletter directly, you can do so by signing up on our main page here or by leaving a comment on this post. Our previous newsletter from May can be read here.

What We Do BESIDES Event Day

It’s no secret that April is our favorite month of the year. The last Saturday in April is National Rebuilding Day, or as we refer to it, Event Day.

Event Day 2014

Our board of directors, committee members, and hundreds of local volunteers spend the entire day putting the finishing touches on the improvements of more than twenty homes across the city of El Paso. Meanwhile, volunteers across the country work with our affiliates for the same purpose. It’s a magical thing to see the very tangible impact that we have in our own city and to know that we are part of a nation-wide project. Understandably, that one day is the culmination of months of work and organization, but it isn’t the only thing we do. In fact, our team works year-round. Here are just a few of the things we focus our efforts on:

Project Homes

The homes we complete on Event Day are just a portion of the homes we renovate. Our work doesn’t stop there. The same kinds of improvements that take place in Event Day homes are being done year-round. We refer to the homes that are being renovated in the “off season” as Project Homes. It makes sense that we would work on homes all year since the need is there all year. We are continually taking care of the paperwork, reviewing homes, sending out contractors, and seeing homes through to completion. This year, we have set a goal to complete a total of 50 homes by the end of the calendar year. We are already over 2/3rds of the way there.

If you think you or someone you know is a candidate for our services, you can access the necessary forms by clicking “applications” in the top navigation bar.

Community Partnerships

UTEP's ProjectMOVE

In recent years, we’ve made efforts to become even more involved in the community. We’re able to do so by partnering up with other El Paso institutions. Earlier this year, for instance, we joined forces with the University of Texas at El Paso and their volunteer initiative Project MOVE. You can read more about it here, but in short, one hundred UTEP students volunteered for six hours and completed work on five homes! A great success!

Fundraiser

As a nonprofit, we rely on grants and donations. We couldn’t have the impact on El Paso that we do without the generous support of others! We’ve had great success with our fundraisers in previous years, and we hope to announce our latest fundraiser soon.

If you are interested in making a direct donation, you can do so by visiting our donation page.

Prepare for Next Year’s Event Day

Event Day 2014

We begin to shift our focus to the upcoming Event Day as early as the first of the year. Each year we are looking to improve and better our efforts. Tentatively, we want to complete 33 homes on Event Day 2015. A project that big won’t happen without lots of advance planning!

It may seem like our work is never done, but our team is committed to the mission of preserving and revitalizing houses and communities, assuring that low income homeowners, particularly those who are elderly and disabled, live in warmth, safety, and independence.

Team Leader: Cindy Vizcarra

Team Leaders are an integral part of Event Day. They organize and mobilize a team, usually made up of friends or coworkers, and tackle an entire house together. Event Day is made exponentially smoother thanks in large part to our Team Leaders. Today we are sharing a story of one such team leader, Cindy Vizcarra.

Originally from Oklahoma, Cindy grew up as an Army brat. Her family moved to El Paso when she was young, and she’s lived here most of her life. She works as a Program Specialist for Adult Protective Services, where she has been employed for fifteen years.

It’s not uncommon for us to work in tandem with Adult Protective Services, as their work often aligns with our mission. This was how Cindy initially linked up with RTEP. She referred a client of hers to us for home repairs. Community members urged her to get more involved with RTEP and, considering her charitable spirit, it’s no surprise that she jumped in with both feet. That was eight years ago. Since then she has volunteered in different capacities including being a Home Liaison and now a Team Leader.

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Cindy looking on as a team member paints the trim on Event Day 2014.

This most recent Event Day was one of the easiest yet for Cindy and her team. Only one interior room and the outside trim needed painting. When the team arrived ready and raring to go on the morning of Event Day, it was discovered that the homeowner had left town and wasn’t home! Fortunately, his daughter allowed the team in. The homeowner’s son-in-law even got involved, climbing up a ladder and painting alongside the team all day.

When asked how Cindy manages to successfully assemble a team each year, she chalked it up to the motivation of her team members:

I have a group of “old faithfuls” that have helped me out for years! I try and recruit new caseworkers and family members. I get great feedback from our team, and they love doing this. It’s harder than it looks, but we have a great time!

She points out that everyone has something to add to the team. A team member that can’t participate in the painting and yard work due to a physical disability contributes by making thirty (and sometimes more!) burritos and bringing extra waters.

Event Day 2014

An APS team member showing us how it’s done, Event Day 2014. Photo by Cindy Vizcarra.

Cindy adds, “It’s a great feeling to see the before and after pictures and know that we had a part in it. It’s an opportunity for us to give back to the community and work with one another in a way we don’t always get to at our agency. We love the homeowners’ expression and heartfelt thanks at the end of the day, makes it all worth it!”

Thank you to Cindy and the entire APS team for their years of volunteer service! If you are interested in putting together a team for Event Day, you can contact us by leaving a comment here, messaging us on Facebook, or e-mailing us.

Affiliates

Although the entirety of our work takes place in El Paso, we do not work in isolation. Our affiliate is one in a large network spread out across the country, improving lives and communities every single day.

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A look at the national impact of Rebuilding Together last year. {Source}

We thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the recent projects and good work being done by our fellow affiliates:

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  • In New Orleans, this home got a fresh coat of pain, safety features added to the railing, and brand new air conditioning with the help of volunteers from Chevron, Harrah’s Casino, and Starbucks.
  • We aren’t the only ones battling high temps right now. Our friends at RT NYC shared this link about staying safe in summer heat.
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  • Springfield affiliate has teamed up with YouthBuild USA and is hard at work on a big project.
  • Last month, RT Montgomery County (that’s in Maryland) joined forces with JBG companies to make drastic improvements to the home of a local Air Force veteran.
Rebuilding Together Philadelphia
  • In Philadelphia, the RTP team is spotlighting a gung-ho volunteer, Jen Finley, who has helped build planters, encourage other volunteers, and knows how to handle some mighty big power tools.
  • Over in Louisiana, the RT Acadiana affiliate shares the reaction of homeowners following Event Day on their blog.
Rebuilding Together Acadiana
  • Working with CarMax, the Arizona affiliate built a ramp for a homeowner who couldn’t be released from the hospital until he had a safe way to get into his home.
  • RT Peninsula (located in California) has saved a tremendous about of money on their own energy bills this year thanks to the installation of solar panels on their building by Everybody Solar.
Rebuilding Together Seattle
  • In the north west, a team of enthusiastic volunteers spent last weekend fixing up a home on the south side of Seattle.
  • RT Tulsa recently hosted their 5th annual fundraiser: a golf tournament. You can read about it in their newsletter.

This is just the tip of the iceberg! Homes and communities are being transformed across the country courtesy of volunteers, donors, and the good people at various Rebuilding Together affiliates. We are proud to be a member of this great network and can’t wait to get started on our next project!