As a child who grew up in an 1840’s farmhouse in Cecil County, I am intimately familiar with home repairs. Over the years, termite damage, leaks in the roof, and tree roots growing into the foundation made for regular challenges. Because we didn’t have money to pay for repairs, most of the work was done by my four brothers or occasionally by friends and neighbors. I would also help by climbing ladders to help with roof repairs, or fixing ripped carpets, or caulking windows. I had all kinds of tools in my hands from my early teenage years.
When I got married, my husband and I bought the quintessential money pit of an old house. And over the five years we lived there, we rebuilt most of the inside including tearing out plaster and lath then insulating and rewiring the electric before putting up new drywall. We took the kitchen down to the studs and replaced everything. While doing all this renovation ourselves, we built up a cache of tools, knowledge, and confidence. This was all before the instant access to DIY videos on YouTube; we went old school and used Fix-it books.
We moved to Chestertown after we retired in 2017. After renovating our current home, I found myself finally able to volunteer to help others. I found Rebuilding Together Kent County (RTKC), was invited to join the board, and also began to help on job sites. I was attracted to their overarching mission of Repairing Homes, Revitalizing Communities, and Rebuilding Lives. We provide critical home repairs to keep people warm, safe and dry which seems so basic but many people in our community don’t have this.
When I first joined, we were an all- volunteer work group with a part- time administrator and a six- member board of directors. In 2018, RTKC successfully applied for a four-year grant from HUD specifically for capacity building. This money was a game changer and RTKC grew significantly in the number and type of jobs we did for our neighbors in need. Some of our current jobs have been large, such as roof and floor replacements or building ramps.Others are smaller in scale such as replacing a few rotten boards on steps, installing grab bars, or fixing clogged or leaky sinks. Some of these critical home repairs require us to hire contractors but many are done by volunteers.
From my position as the Chair of the Volunteer Committee, it was obvious we needed to increase our volunteer pool. We declared 2023 as “The Year of the Volunteer” and had several events and sessions to train project leaders, general volunteers, project site supervisors, material managers, and food providers. Our volunteer pool grew from a couple dozen regular volunteers to about 65 volunteers. This allowed us to complete 49 repairs without contractors and over 700 hours have been donated across the organization’s efforts.
While this growth is extremely positive, there is room for more willing people! We currently have homeowners who are approved for service but are waiting as RTKC seeks more project leaders, site safety supervisors, and other volunteers. The need for assistance with home repairs in Kent County is extensive. I would like to encourage people of all interest and skill levels to volunteer with us. Save the date for our nation’s National Day of Service of January 15th which is Martin Luther King Day. We will be having informational program on ways for YOU to become a Rebuilder and help our neighbors in need. For more information, please call at 410-778-4544, or online at [email protected] any time to find out more! Help RTKC celebrate our 20th anniversary in 2024!