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May 19, 2017
Volunteers from Turner’s Portland office recently joined forces with volunteers from the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) to complete two home makeovers on Rebuilding Together’s 2017 National Build Day.
Between the two homes, the team built a 35-foot wheelchair ramp, replaced 600 square feet of carpet with vinyl flooring, installed four handrails, replaced a sink and a toilet, and overhauled two back yards and a front yard/porch area, filling two 30-yard dumpsters with debris. They also moss treated one of the roofs and cleaned its gutters.
Niko Balster, an engineer and a co-captain for one of the house projects was effusive, reflecting on the experience – from the work itself, to the more emotional, interpersonal side of volunteering on a homebuild. “The transformation of each home is almost unbelievable,” he said. “I couldn’t believe the homeowner when she claimed there was a concrete pad beneath a four-foot bramble of blackberries. But after 10 volunteers spent all morning hauling debris, there it was! The homeowner’s son exclaimed that he hadn’t seen the slab in 15 years." He added that getting to know the neighbors, as well as the homeowner, helps bring the value of the effort into perspective. “Neighbors came out of their homes to talk to us and express appreciation for the visible improvements on the neighborhood,” he said. “One homeowner burst into tears of joy at the end of the day.”
Rebuilding Together is a nationwide organization that in Portland alone assists approximately 50 homeowners a year, engaging more than 1,200 volunteers in the process. They focus on critical home repairs, modifications and improvements, performing all work at no cost to the homeowners.
Cost Analyst Jo Doherty, also a co-captain on one of the projects, echoed some of Niko's reflections. “I’ve been involved with Rebuilding Together for the last few years because there is such a transformation that occurs – physically to the homes and to psychologically to the homeowners,” she said. “But also, I believe it’s invaluable to us as volunteers. Doing this work is such a humbling experience every year. It allows for such a vulnerable rollercoaster to happen.” She continued, “When you come into someone’s home there is such a complex cocktail of gratitude, frustration, sadness, joy and hope. It reminds me why I love construction – you can see the results of your work at the end of the day, and the homes can be COMPLETELY altered from where you started. One day can make all the difference.”