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Joanne Alford-Robinette, executive director of Rebuilding Together Warner Robins, talks about the work her organization does and what makes April special.
Q: Go ahead, what makes April so special to you?
A: It’s National Rebuilding Month when more than 1,500 Rebuilding Together groups across the country like us bring a focus on rebuilding projects and accomplishing our goal to provide safe homes and communities for everyone. We’re busy all year but have a big push in April that leads up to National Rebuilding Day coming up the last Saturday in April.
Q: Could you tell a little more about Rebuilding Together Warner Robins and when it began?
A: We’re a nonprofit organization that began in 1996 that gathers volunteers and contractors to serve low-income seniors, disabled persons and veteran homeowners at no cost.
Q: How do you serve them? What kind of rebuilding, what kind of home repairs, are you talking about?
A: Pretty much all critical repairs a qualifying homeowner needs, within the constraints of our budget and guidelines. It’s all about money as far as that goes so it’s what individuals donate, churches contribute and what we raise from businesses and corporations and grants. We do roof repairs and if we have to replace a roof it can run $5,000. If there’s also heating, ventilation and air conditioning needed that can be another $5,000. You can see how it mounts up. But people, especially seniors and others we serve, need it. We have to determine what’s most needed to help people stay in place in their homes. That’s a big goal.
Q: Those are big-ticket items, what are some common repairs and work?
A: Again, pretty much what’s necessary. We do bathroom repairs and rebuilds and handicap accessibility. Sometimes, you can’t imagine what just installing a grab bar at a tub or an entry can mean to someone. It might mean there’s no fall and no trip to the hospital. There’s a huge sense of security a small bit of help can give.
Q: Other things?
A: Oh, things like replacing soffits, the wood at a home’s eaves, installing wheelchair ramps, electrical checks and work, plumbing, general carpentry — just about anything in home repair, whether we use volunteers or contractors. It depends on what volunteers are available and the nature of the work.
Q: Do you have any gauge of your impact?
A: Well, our economic impact in 2018 was $512,460. That’s money spent on supplies and projects and value of labor from contractors and volunteers. That should say something. Since we began there’s been $4 million-plus made in improvements and over 1,025 homes improved.
A: How about the human side, what kind of feedback do you see there?
A: We see a lot of tears of joy and happiness. There’s hardly a repair large or small that doesn’t bring tears to homeowner’s because there’s such a need.
Q: Again, funding comes through local and other donations, grants and such?
A: Yes. And we get community block grant funds through (Warner Robins) and there are our fundraising events like our annual Bob Cutrell Memorial Golf Tournament. We’re really happy we’ve been accepted as part of the United Way of Central Georgia beginning in 2020. We were just notified last month after a long process.
Q: You mentioned your target group to serve, could you elaborate?
A: There’s a lot of overlap, but most of our homeowners are seniors, disabled seniors and veterans, most of who are also seniors. Forty percent of those we help are vets, about 80 percent are disabled and 95 percent are seniors. But we have way more applicants than we can support. In fact, we have a three year waiting list and aren’t even able to accept new applicants right now.
Q: That certainly speaks to the need, doesn’t it?
A: It sure does and there are some very sad living situations people need help in. The answer would obviously be more funds, more help.
Q: Who can volunteer?
A: We accept volunteers from 14 years old and up and at all skill levels from cleanup and cleaning gutters and doing yard work to very skilled workers. Some are professionals wanting to give back to the community. There are a lot of volunteers from Robins Air Force Base and a lot of retired people and base retirees that volunteer.
Q: How do they contact you to donate, serve or learn more?
A: Contact and other information’s at www.rebuildingtogetherwr.org.
Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.