Lending A Helping Hammer
Rebuilding Together Saratoga County, Inc. is a local chapter of a national organization, offering free home renovation services to low-income families, elderly couples and the disabled throughout Saratoga County.
Every year, the last weekend in April is designated the official 'workday' by the national Rebuilding Together organization. The local Saratoga County chapter adds additional workdays in the spring and has begun to add them in the fall to accommodate even more families in need each year.
Founder & Executive Director of Rebuilding Together Saratoga
"We do the bulk of our work in the spring," said Executive Director Michele Larkin. "Last year we started to add fall projects, and we have a great deal lined up for this year as well."
Michele Larkin founded Rebuilding Together Saratoga County (RTSC) in November 2003 with an informational meeting. The organization has been growing ever since, boasting over 600 volunteers in 2007.
"We had an initial recruiting meeting in 2003," said Larkin. "You know those kinds of meetings where you invite all your friends and relatives and say 'please!' Well, about 40 people came, and everybody agreed to do something. On our first workday in 2004, we had about 100 people come out to help."
Larkin says RTSC completed 5 projects in their first year, and there are 40 projects being worked on this spring with even more anticipated for the fall. Who knows what the final tally will be for 2008? Volunteers from the local community sign up for various workdays throughout the year and offer a helping hand.
"People want to help out," Larkin said. "The community has just grabbed onto the idea of helping locally. Our motto of neighbors helping neighbors resonates with folks. The kindest people in the world are the ones who volunteer for Rebuilding Together."
Larkin mentioned they have both skilled and unskilled workers at RTSC, and she noted the duties and importance of each.
"We have an awful lot of unskilled workers, which we call our 'light-duty' folks," she said. "They help out with cleanup, painting and things like that, so they are very important. We also have skilled professionals who volunteer, and we are always in need of plumbers, electricians and carpenters."
RTSC receives no government funding. The organization fundraises for materials, accepts donations from local sponsors and private donors, and applies for grants. Their largest sponsor is the Saratoga Builder's Association, who gave them $32,500 last year from their Showcase of Homes. Larkin said her work pays off when she sees the reactions of local families after each project.
"The best part of it all for me is just knowing someone will be safer, warmer, dryer because of the work we do," said Larkin. "The hugs and thank you notes from the homeowners at the end of a workday make all of us grateful for the opportunity to help and make a difference in the lives of our neighbors."