Rebuilding Together Thurston County Transforming Houses into Homes


In a moment, the life Rose had known was over. She was rear ended by a high-speed car. The good news was the young student in the street in front of her was unharmed. The bad news was Rose’s arduous recovery would be part of the rest of her life. She has regained some of her lost eyesight, but other serious physical problems challenge her body and spirit. Her disabilities have cost her in many ways, including the inability to do maintenance on her home in Yelm. Recently, Rebuilding Together Thurston County (RTTC) joined with Rose to complete various projects in and around the property bringing safety and security back into her life.

Rebuilding Together Thurston County Yelm Kitchen
The kitchen, eating area and front door landing now have sturdy, hard surface flooring. Photo courtesy: Rebuilding Together Thurston County

“I didn’t know how I was going to stay in the house,” reflected Rose. She was alone. It was hard to get up and down the stairway. There was a hole in her bedroom window that let in moisture and cold air. Dangerous limbs hung from the trees outside. There were serious plumbing issues in the bathroom. And for good measure, the roof needed to be replaced. “I fell through my deck,” she added. Because of her disabilities, she has been unable to work. Fortunately, a friend helped her connect with RTTC.

Rebuilding Together Thurston County brings together volunteers and sponsors with low-income homeowners who need home repairs but can’t afford them. They work with veterans, families and seniors with financial limitations to handle a variety of needs. Typical projects involve the replacement of bathroom floors, plumbing repairs, addition of rails and safety devices, and property clean up. People are living in houses where lack of maintenance and repairs, both inside and out, have led to unsafe or unsanitary conditions. The goal is to complete repairs, allowing people to stay in their homes, ultimately preventing them from becoming homeless.

Major bathroom repairs were important components for safety and proper maintenance. Photo courtesy: Rebuilding Together Thurston County

Bruce Keough, a volunteer and project manager for Rose’s house, originally volunteered with Rebuilding Together 15 years ago through the Fairwood Community Methodist Church in Renton. A friend recruited him, and Bruce was happy to pound nails and help out. He realized that it was possible to acquire handy homeowner skills along the way by watching and learning from others. Bruce was an engineer at Boeing and still made time to volunteer.

Now Bruce is living in Olympia, and Rebuilding Together Thurston County is thrilled to put his array of helpful skills into use. Although he has retired from Boeing, he has been promoted to a project manager by RTTC. He made the initial site visit to meet Rose and see her house. He arrived with his notebook, tape measure and camera. Bruce has a good eye for noticing what needs to be done and quickly had a long list.

Then Bruce evaluated what work was possible for RTTC to do and what extra help they might need, such as an electrician. In Rose’s case they needed a roofing contractor. “It was quite a job to coordinate it all,” said Bruce and added happily, “It all came together.”

Rebuilding Together Thurston County Yelm Volunteer
Volunteers are the heart of RTTC. You, too, can participate. Whatever your range of skills, there is a place for you. Photo courtesy: Rebuilding Together Thurston County

It takes a team of willing volunteers to do the work. This usually happens on one or two days over a weekend. Bruce, his wife Julie, and the team from the First United Methodist Church in Olympia enjoy their social interactions and like coming together as they help others in their community. They repaired Rose’s house and changed her life.

Rebuilding Together Thurston County is an engaging organization that welcomes groups to volunteer. That might consist of people from your church, place of business or miscellaneous friends. There is a national rebuilding month, but RTTC works throughout the year to help people with smaller projects. It is your chance to put on your HGTV leather belt, tuck in your hammer and be part of the before and after photos while helping an individual or family stay in their home. And as Bruce noted, you will learn some handy DIY skills for your own house.

Rebuilding Together Thurston County Yelm Yard Fence Garden
The new fence provides privacy and security from the near-by busy road. Rose shares her garden space with neighbors to grow food for everyone. Photo credit: Mary Ellen Psaltis

Rose is relieved to have the yard debris and dangerous limbs removed from the property. She loves having a real window back in her bedroom, where now the room is warmer and drier. “I can actually have a bath,” she shares, appreciating the new enclosure complete with safety bars. Rose also mentioned that Bruce was able to help with a few other jobs, like getting the garage door to lock properly, that really make a difference to her. “I feel a lot safer,” she said.

There is more information at the Rebuilding Together Thurston County website or you can visit their Facebook page. They would love to hear from you if you are interested in sponsoring a project, becoming a volunteer or know of someone in need of assistance. Call 360-539-7830 or write to

Many hands make a world of difference for the homeowner. Teams learn skills and have fun, too. Photo courtesy: Rebuilding Together Thurston County


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