Residents of Thurston County can rest a little easier knowing that two unique organizations are working together to help households in need make repairs and improvements. Catholic Community Services of Western Washington (CCS) is a region-wide organization that gets an extra boost of help from Rebuilding Together Thurston County (RTTC) here in our community.

While Catholic Community Services focuses on serving elders and adults with disabilities, Rebuilding Together Thurston County (RTTC) serves elders as well as veterans and families with young children who are classified as low-income based on Housing and Urban Development guidelines. This single mom of two children has new, safe stairs to her home thanks to RTTC! Photo credit: Cathy Johnson

Rebekah Graham is program coordinator for Volunteer Services at CCS. Volunteer Services (formerly known as Volunteer Chore Services) helps elders and adults with disabilities remain independent in their homes by offering household support of all kinds. Housework, laundry, shopping and errands are among the many tasks Volunteer Services can help with. Minor home repairs and enhancements are a common need, and this is where RTTC steps up to help.

“We are able to offer our Thurston County residents so much more thanks to Rebuilding Together,” explains Rebekah. She has been working with RTTC to supplement and enhance how her team serves Thurston County residents for about four years. She is also on the board at RTTC as of last fall. At CCS she manages a team of volunteers, but her program has a fairly small budget so it can be tricky to pay for all the supplies necessary for various home repair projects.

“This is where RTTC makes a huge difference for us here in Thurston County,” Rebekah says. RTTC helps fund the purchase of materials for CCS projects in addition to sharing volunteers. CCS can make a bigger impact on their network of beneficiaries thanks to support from RTTC. “We’ve been able to build and repair staircase railings; build wheelchair ramps; install grab bars; and make essential repairs for folks who really need them.” Wheelchair ramps in particular are a critical enhancement to the homes of those with mobility limitations.

“We love building wheelchair ramps because the impact is just massive,” explains David Kopra. David and his wife Ann Drorbaugh have been volunteers with CCS since 2009, when they helped with recovery efforts after the Chehalis River flood. They started volunteering with RTTC because of how close the partnership with CCS became. In the last year, David estimates that CCS and RTTC have built seven wheelchair ramps for those in need around Thurston County. “Prior to having a ramp, these individuals can only leave their house by being carried,” David says. “Then we spend a weekend or two building a ramp and suddenly they can roll out of the house on their own. Their lives are transformed.”

This new ramp allowed the client to come home from the hospital. It was the first time their home had been deemed fully accessible for them, all thanks to Rebuilding Together Thurston County and Catholic Community Services. Photo credit: Cathy Johnson

David says this is the kind of work that brings volunteers back. “Many hands do make lighter work, but I think it’s the intensity of the labor that lead to the satisfaction volunteers take away from these projects,” David explains.

David and Ann hope to be at RTTC’s annual Rebuilding Day (work day), which has been moved to August due to the COVID-19 impacts that affected the region in May. “RTTC and CCS are always in need of more volunteers willing to do this work,” Ann says. The specific date has not yet been determined, but Rebekah expects roughly 100 volunteers to turn out. RTTC has selected 7 sites around the county where the volunteers will work in small groups to perform much needed large-scale home improvements, clean ups and property enhancements.

Rebekah is most excited to help a multi-generational household in Yelm. A pair of aging grandparents is living with their children and grandchildren in a home that needs safety enhancements including a ramp as well as yard clean up. When several board members visited the home for an evaluation, they could tell RTTC would be able to make a huge difference for this family and prepare them for a safe, comfortable future for years to come.

It is clear that RTTC and CCS benefit tremendously from sharing resources and volunteers. The benefits allow both organizations to increase the positive impact on the lives of community members in need. “This town is not big enough to have an endless number of volunteers,” David says. “The more you can do to put these groups together maximizes the impact of the volunteers. The more people you can get together, the more people you can teach a new skill, and that grows the effort.”

A group of Catholic Community Services (CCS) volunteers at work on a Rebuilding Together Thurston County-funded ramp. David Kopra and Ann Drorbaugh are in the purple shirts. They first learned about Rebuilding Together while volunteering for Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts and are happy to volunteer for our local chapter as well as CCS. Photo credit: Cathy Johnson

Both Rebekah and David address just how much need there is for this type of support in Thurston County. By working together, RTTC and CCS widen their impact to uplift the lives of families and elders in need. CCS helps people of all religious denominations, not just Catholics.

To learn more about RTTC or to get involved, visit the Rebuilding Together Thurston County website. They are always in need of volunteers of all skill levels. You can make a monetary donation through their website or contact them to make a materials donation such as lumber or tools by calling 360-539-7830 or emailing info@rebuildingthogethertc.org.


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