Rebuilding Together – Helping Thurston County Neighbors


By: Amy Rowley

It’s remarkable.  On three consecutive weekends, April 21st, 28th and May 5th Rebuilding Together will transform 9 Thurston County lives and homes.  The all volunteer-run, grass roots organization is coordinating over 170 volunteers to complete projects throughout Thurston County.

Rebuilding Together was created by a challenge from Olympia Master Builders (OMB) to do more in the community.  OMB members including Chris MacDonald founded the organization, entering its ninth year.  “It is very easy to make a one-day commitment that has a lot of impact,” describes MacDonald.

Helping Neighbors

The group’s focus is to improve homes and lives of neighbors in need. Most projects are completed for low-income disabled or senior citizens.  “We look for individuals who wish to stay in their home but no longer have the resources to maintain or repair the home,” comments President Jackie Ashley.  Rebuilding Together’s projects focus on critical repairs, maintenance, and improving energy efficiency.

Laura, a lifetime Olympian, will be turning 100 in May.  Although she is blind, her daughter lives next door and together they are committed to helping Laura maintain her valued independence.  In cooperating with Comcast’s Day of Caring, Rebuilding Together will be doing some critical repairs to her home including adding an entry ramp into and expanding her shower, both to accommodate her need for accessibility.  The project will also include yard beautification, addressing common safety issues, while preparing for her 100th birthday party.

Sidney’s story is equally heart wrenching.  The single father of two children, Sidney is blind.  Despite his disability, Sidney’s home is well cared for but some safety issues need to be addressed.  Rebuilding Together will add grab bars in the bathroom, stretch the carpet to avoid trip hazard and repair water damage around a roof vent.  The group also expects to add at least one covered entry and beautify the home with paint and plants to benefit the children without disorienting Sidney.

Josie’s 900-square foot mobile home will be refurbished in May.  Earlier this year, her heat bill was $376.  On a fixed income, Josie is not able to continue to afford this expense.  Add in that no appliances are operational and it’s clear that Josie needs some assistance.  Volunteer and local business owner Barry Jesperson will be working on Josie’s project.  “I am thankful that I can use my skills to help Josie improve her mobile home so she does not have to worry about things like the roof leaking,” comments Jespersen.

Providing Volunteer Opportunities

Rebuilding Together manages their projects with volunteer efforts and is available to work in co-operation with businesses, churches, other not for profit agencies or professional associations to meet needs in our community.  The group is accepting applications for potential fall projects.

Rebuilding Together brings volunteers and the community together to give the homeowner an amazing step-up.  “Historically we have more volunteers than we have projects,” boasts Ashley who is encouraging community members to recommend neighbors who may need assistance, “and when you look for opportunities to serve, you will find them.”

Jespersen learned about Rebuilding Together from his church.  “I believe that while it’s commendable to go to other countries on work mission trips, you can find these same opportunities in your own community.  You would be surprised that just four blocks away there is some one that could use your help,” states Jespersen.

Each project is assigned a House Captain.  This person is a skilled project manager who assesses, in advance, what work needs to be completed.  Volunteer opportunities exist for skilled and non-skilled labor.  Community groups can also band together to work on a project together.  Ashley indicates that coworkers volunteering together can be a great team building experience.

“It’s an amazing feeling and very rewarding to help someone in need.  Each homeowner is very appreciative.  It’s a neat symbiotic relationship,” explains MacDonald.

Assisting Other Non-Profit Organizations

Rebuilding Together can also assist other 501(c)3 non-profit organizations.  For example, the Tumwater Chamber of Commerce utilized Rebuilding Together’s services earlier this year.

With 26 volunteers and 72 volunteer hours, Rebuilding Together completed about $2,000 worth of work.  The project included painting the interior, cleaning the roof, repairing the entry ramp, and gardening.  Mayor Kmet worked alongside volunteers during the entire project.

Long-time volunteer, Dave Rockwell, believes that “it’s good for everyone to give in some way.  I chose to give my time through Rebuilding Together because of the population that it serves – seniors, disabled individuals and veterans.”

As Rebuilding Together moves towards year-round work, the organization continues to search for funding, spread information about volunteer opportunities, and reach out to community members that may need assistance.

For more information, check out Rebuilding Together’s website by clicking here.

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