Rebuilding Together

Ken Gorrellby Ken Gorrell, Weirs Times Contributing Writer

Skeptics like me don’t believe in miracles, even when we see them. But I saw one last month.
It wasn’t a dramatic parting of the sea or an inexplicable healing, but for the family involved what I witnessed was miraculous and life-changing. I saw a group of volunteers come together to rescue a family, to give them hope for the future, to give them the gift of a home revitalized.
I saw the men and women of Rebuilding Together lift up one of the most vulnerable families in their community, doing for them what they could not possibly have done for themselves.
Rebuilding Together “provides low-income homeowners with critical home repairs, accessibility modifications and energy-efficient upgrades,” helping to “stabilize and revitalize neighborhoods across the country.” Their website, rebuildingtogether.org, provides plenty of details about this national organization and the work it’s been doing for the past 25 years. But even a video narrated by Morgan Freeman can’t quite capture the essence of the incredible transformation I saw over two weeks in April.
I’ve known the family selected to receive the gift of a home no longer the worst on the block. Over the course of 6 years I did what I could to help them, but to little affect. I saw their home slowly deteriorate from lack of maintenance, watched as the clutter built up and the stress of living on the margin of financial ruin take its toll. Those who have experienced that stress know how debilitating it can be to mind and body.
Financial stress has been linked to depression and anxiety, as well as heart disease, high blood pressure, more frequent colds and minor illnesses. Even clutter has been connected to asthma and obesity. A recent article from Advocate Health Care quoted Dr. Rian Rowles, a psychiatrist affiliated with Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill: “When you live with clutter, you are subconsciously reminded of work that needs to be finished and visually, your eyes do not have a place to rest.” The doctor added that “Too much clutter can cause tremendous stress and fatigue. When things take longer to find, or can’t be found, stress levels rise and so does your risk for illness.”
So when their local Rebuilding Together chapter chose this family, I shared in their joy and volunteered to be a part of the action. As with all such efforts, the keys are organization and long-term planning. The volunteers play a vital role, of course, but without the people behind the scenes putting it all together there would be no “miracle.” Many of the organizers came from the real estate and construction fields, and much of the material used was either donated directly or purchased through donations collected over the year.
The volunteers were a mix of skilled tradesmen and people like me, home improvement “weekend warriors,” willing to pitch in where they could. Despite the large numbers of people and the relatively small space, chaos and confusion were kept to a minimum. The members of this team seemed to self-synchronize, united in a single cause.
In the end, the “big reveal” was as emotional as you would expect. The home owner was shocked and grateful, almost disbelieving her eyes as she walked through her new front door. Her son didn’t quite know what to make of the changes until he saw his new room, decorated to the theme he had chosen: Dr. Who. Grinning ear-to-ear, he checked out the framed posters, new bed, and desk in a room freshened with new paint and carpet. And yes, there were tears.
None of this happened in New Hampshire. We don’t have a Rebuilding Together chapter in this state. But we will. There’s no denying the need for one right here in the Lakes Region, and we certainly have the talent. I told this story to local business owners who are part of Gold Star, a business referral network to which I belong, and their response was positive and enthusiastic. The core of a Rebuilding chapter will be built from this group. The national organization is restructuring its affiliate program, so I let them know that New Hampshire is ready to start a chapter as soon as their new process is in place.

If you are interested in being part of a “miracle” next April, please let me know. I can be reached at kengorrell@gmail.com.