By Nancy Tannler
On a rainy Saturday morning in November, 20 volunteers showed up at Lents Village Apartments to clean and revitalize the outdoor patio and gardening area.
They spent six intense hours working on the project, making the outdoor space usable for the residents.
This event was one of 40+ major volunteer projects that Rebuilding Together Portland organizes each year.
The Southeast Examiner was able to speak with Mike Malone, Executive Director of Rebuilding Together, on the day of the project. He was there digging, planting, weeding, removing debris and directing the volunteer task force.
Malone explained that Rebuilding Together is a nonprofit organization assisting low-income homeowners with needed home repairs at no cost. They have been helping the elderly, people with disabilities, families with children and veterans throughout Portland for 29 years.
The people who volunteer come from many different organizations like churches, businesses and neighborhoods – people willing to give their time and energy to those who need help.
“The volunteers are here to work, so everything has to be organized and ready when they arrive,” Malone said. He makes sure that on the day of the event there are the proper amount of tools, gloves, a plan of action and lunches for all the volunteers.
“It’s been harder with COVID-19 because all the projects need to happen outside,” he added.
Lents Village is an affordable housing apartment for older adults. It is also a place where people can receive Meals-on-Wheels distribution.
Residents have not been able to use the patio because of the broken cement and overgrown shrubs. This has been especially difficult during the pandemic with people trying to maintain social distancing while indoors.
The repairs will open up this space for them to use outside. Volunteers dismantled old garden boxes and will be rebuilding them, so they are wheelchair accessible.
That day’s volunteers were from Republic Services, Inc., a leader in US recycling and non-hazardous solid waste disposal. They employ 36,000 people nationwide and are dedicated to promoting a sustainable planet.
Rebuilding Together has two programs available for those who qualify, Malone said. There is National Rebuild Day and the Safe and Healthy Repair Program.
National Rebuild Day typically falls on the last Saturday in April every year. Rebuilding Together Portland selects 40-45 homes to repair on that day then 1,500 volunteers from all walks of life show up and complete roughly $1,250,000 worth of improvements to the community.
These projects include carpentry, electrical, painting, plumbing, flooring, home safety modifications (such as ADA and handrails or wheelchair ramps), debris removal, yard clean-up and other tasks.
The new Safe and Healthy Repair Program assists low-income people with small repairs so they don’t become big ones later. The program does small carpentry repairs like fixing broken or rotted steps; installation of grab bars, handrails, raised toilets and smoke detectors throughout a home; small electrical repairs including outlets, switches, fixtures, etc, and minor plumbing issue like fixing leaky faucets and toilets that don’t flush.
To be eligible for either of these programs, one must be the owner and occupant of the property, low-income, unable to either financially and/or physically complete repairs themselves and live in the City of Portland.
The masked, muddy volunteers didn’t let a little rain deter them from their tasks that day. Lents Village’s enclosed garden was looking really good by the time they sat down for lunch. Volunteers planted $2,000 worth of new plants and shrubs.
Eventually a new shade tent will be erected and the garden boxes completed, all at the ready for when springtime comes again.
To volunteer or to receive an application for one of the Rebuilding Together programs, visit rtpdx.org or call Mike Malone at 503.943.7515.