Over the weekend, RTEBN graciously accepted a grant from the Red Oak Opportunity Fund (ROOF)!
The Red Oak fund provided grants to 34 local non-profit organizations this year.
Thank you ROOF your continuous support!
Q: How did you get involved with Rebuilding Together East Bay-North?
Years ago I was having dinner with my family at the El Cerrito Plaza Chevy’s restaurant (I told you it was years ago!) and there was this rather animated and boisterous group at a table near us. They were all wearing “Christmas in April” t-shirts, were dirty, and happily talking about their project. It stuck with me and I kept coming back to that group of people who obviously were excited about their hard and dirty work! So, I researched what the program was all about and (it must have been around 2000) got a group of folks together to work on a project.
I work at UC Berkeley at the Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science. I thought it might be a good idea to get my young postdoctoral scientists out of their labs for a day and introduce them to community service. So, I think the first three times I organized groups it was with these Miller Postdoctoral Fellows.
In more recent years I have also organized teams of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to participate. It has become an almost annual event on the NorCal Peace Corps Association calendar!
Q: What can you tell us about the last project you worked on?
This year we had a great project for our group. Our task was to clean out a back yard that had become overwhelmed by a lot of accumulated “stuff” that didn’t need to be there and a lot of overgrown vegetation. We came in like gang-busters and went to work. I wish we had taken before and after photos. We cleared. We pruned. We pulled weeds. We filled a dumpster! Hopefully we left the homeowners with a cleaned up yard that will allow them to enjoy the space and start some new projects of their own!
Q: In your experience, what’s the most rewarding part of volunteering with Rebuilding Together?
I really enjoy a day of hard physical work and the huge sense of accomplishment that comes once the job is done. I also like the camaraderie of working with a team. My postdoc teams are already connected through our Institute, but the Peace Corps teams often include volunteers who may or may not already know each other. The thing about Peace Corps volunteers though is that they have no problem jumping right in to join in a group to enjoy the shared experience – whatever it may be. And, they are not afraid of hard and dirty work!
Q: If you could pick one renovation skill to learn, what would it be and why?
Hmmmm, well, I’d hate to practice my limited skills on any of the homeowners associated with RTEBN! I can do some painting and I’m good at yard work, but I’m not sure I’m game to do much more critical renovation work for others. I’d be cautious of offering me a hammer.
Q: What would you say to someone who is thinking about volunteering, but hasn’t made the decision yet?
What’s stopping you? Alone you can easily find a willing group to welcome you into the fold. I’ve never seen a group turn down a willing volunteer!! Or, get a few friends together and find out just how much fun it is to work hard for a family really in need of the help!
You don’t need expert skills, just willing hands and able body. I always feel so virtuous after I’ve completed my annual work day with Rebuilding Together. And the aching muscles I always succeed in achieving help me feel virtuous for at least a day or two longer!
Many thanks to Kathy for her tireless support! If you’re interested in volunteering, you can sign up online by visiting our Volutneer Sign-up page.
Setsuko moved to the United States from Japan 42 years ago, when her daughter Noriko was 12. Setsuko suffers from severe dementia, and Noriko quite her job and moved from Oakland to be her full-time caretaker. Setsuko is unable to cook, bathe herself, or take care of other daily tasks, and the dementia occasionally prevents Setsuko from recognizing her daughter. Setsuko will need to begin using a wheelchair in the coming years, but for now she is still walking.
Setsuko’s husband was a talented carpenter, but the home–and the beautiful handmade shades in the front windows–is all that remains after his death many years ago. Together, the family of two has very little income, and what there is is spent almost immediately on food and other necessities. They were referred to Rebuilding Together East Bay-North by J-Sei, the Japanese Senior Citizen Center in Berkeley.
Together with our volunteers, RTEBN took on a number of projects for Setsuko, including replacing a broken window, installing smoke detectors, CO detectors, and an overflow for the hot water heater, removing debris, and repairing a rotted out handrailing. Thank you for helping improve Setsuko’s safety and quality of life!
Connor McLeod is a Sophomore at the University of California, Berkeley, studying Business Administration in the Haas School of Business. He plays close defense for the University of California Men’s Lacrosse Team. Connor is a Bay Area native and hails from Burlingame, California.
Q: How did you get involved with RTEBN?
I got involved with Rebuilding Together as a sophomore in high school. My alma mater, Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, had several volunteer opportunities with the Peninsula branch of Rebuilding Together. During my time as a Padre, I saw the tremendous opportunity that service could award young men, and the payoff it allowed on a personal level. After helping on several projects on the Peninsula, I grew to really respect the program and people of Rebuilding Together. When our current Cal Lacrosse coach, Brian Ledyard, challenged the team to come up with a way to be good men on and off the field, I thought of Rebuilding Together. After running the concept by our Senior Leaders and receiving their support, I reached out to Rebuilding Together East Bay-North and was excited to find the same level of enthusiasm and passion that I had encountered working for Rebuilding Together on the Peninsula. I knew our team and the RTEBN team would be a perfect fit.
Q: What did your project day look like? (Timeline, group, activities, etc.)
Our project was great. The team drove down to the Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program (BORP) at 9 AM on a Saturday morning to begin weeding, caulking, and painting one of their bicycle storage facilities. We ended up weeding, prepping, paint-scraping, and priming until the early afternoon. Our work session was one of the better moments of team bonding I have seen off the field this year. From watching my teammates learn to caulk and paint, to watching some of our larger players realize how much fun a thicket of weeds and a pick-axe can be, the team was all smiles all day.
Q: What do you think about BORP and the work they do?
I was very happy when I found out that our team would be working with BORP. Our entire team plays with a mentality to “get 1 percent better everyday,” a mentality that arose from our head coach’s constant reminders that we are blessed to be able to play lacrosse. We all share a respect for the game, and were enthusiastic when we found we could make a real impact on an organization that helps people with physical disabilities to lead active lives. Additionally, the team was particularly excited to learn about their veteran outreach program. Several team members have family members that are veterans, and that connection gave the day a personal touch. BORP’s Adaptive cycling and recreation centers are life changing, I am happy that we were able to help them in their mission.
Q: How did volunteering with your teammates affect your experience? (as opposed to volunteering by yourself, or with strangers)
Volunteering with my team was definitely a major bonus. It allowed us to bond in ways we wouldn’t have the opportunity to in the classroom or on the field. Working together ensured that everyone was working hard, was focused on a shared objective, and achieved a specified goal. Essentially, it captured the three targets and touchstones of team sports, applied them to an off-the-field experience, and allowed for the same growth and success rate as an athletic endeavor.
Q: Volunteers like you and your team are the lifeblood of Rebuilding Together. What would you say to someone who is thinking about volunteering, but hasn’t made the decision yet?
What are you waiting for? Volunteering is one of the best ways to achieve personal growth and to feel accomplished. Not to mention that the work you are doing is making a tangible difference in people’s lives. If you can align a team to do it with you, that’s even better. The opportunities for team building are boundless.
Thanks to Connor, and the California Men’s Lacrosse Team, and all of our excellent volunteers!
Dennis has lived in his house since he was born; the house has been in his family for around 100 years. Because of that history, he is reluctant to sell the house despite his family’s encouragement. Dennis was in a car accident 35 years ago that left his entire right side paralyzed; a once-broken left leg that makes sitting in his wheelchair difficult. He likes to go outside, feed the birds, watch TV, and drink coffee (although it used to be Southern Comfort). He manages to be happy with his living situation, but he also admits that it could be greatly improved.
Roger has been Dennis’ caregiver for nearly 20 years. He is in his 60s and they both live in Dennis’ home full time. Dennis can do somethings on his own, but Roger is responsible for basically everything he does including putting him in and out of his wheelchair, making meals, assistance in bathroom/bathing, and so on. They sometimes get “grumpy” with each other, but they understand each other well and get along “just fine.” Because Dennis has chronic encephalitis and is difficult to understand, Roger facilitated his answers throughout the application, inspection, and interview process.
Dennis and his caregiver brought up a number of possible improvements to the house, but the one they most wanted was obvious: the chimney has pulled away from the house and hangs at an unstable angle, nearly ready to collapse into the driveway–or into the house. The chimney could not possibly remain standing were an earthquake to occur. Rebuilding Together East Bay-North will be bringing a team of volunteers together to stabilize the chimney so that it no longer presents a safety hazard. The team will also be correcting plumbing problems, patching the kitchen ceiling, and replacing a gate and fence.
National Rebuilding Day 2014 is coming up fast on April 26, and RTEBN is working hard to bring it all together. This year, we have 14 projects on the roster: 11 houses and 3 community facilities, including the Berkeley Men’s Shelter and YouthSpirit Artworks. Each site has been vetted and inspected through our rigorous application process by our Program Field Coordinator, Paul, and each site has been matched with a volunteer House Captain by our Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator, Marie. We’re looking forward to putting in a lot of hard work for a great cause–bringing volunteers and communities together to improve the homes and lives of low-income seniors and disabled homeowners.
With only slightly more than a month to go before National Rebuilding Day, we are happy to be moving away from the preliminary work of submitting paperwork and securing permits into the nitty gritty details of the work day. Our House Captains and First Mates have each begun their training, and several House Captains have already completed the second round of site inspections. Those inspections are an essential part of the preparations for National Rebuilding Day because they allow House Captains to determine exactly what work they will perform, how many volunteers they will need, and what materials will be required. We look forward to seeing the finalized scopes of work!
In the meantime, RTEBN staff took advantage of a couple of rare afternoons with everyone in the office to go “tech scouting.” We visited all of this year’s sites in rapid succession, asking questions like “How is parking going to be?” and “Where are we going to put the dumpster?” along with many others. For some of the staff, this was our first time seeing the work sites. Coordinating 14 construction projects is a complicated challenge, and seeing all of the sites in person sparked a number of creative solutions to help leverage our resources for the most good.
National Rebuilding Day 2014 will be an enormous day of service. If you haven’t signed up to participate yet, fill out the volunteer application on our website, and Marie will get in touch with you asap!
Note: If you’d like to take more of a leadership role this year, we would love to have several more House Captains (project managers). Check out the volunteer position description!
We’ve filled all of our House Captain positions for this round of projects, but don’t let that stop you from volunteering!
Q: Tell me about your experience with RTEBN. How did you get involved?
I started volunteering with RTEBN in 2009. That year, I was volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, and a volunteer at one of their events told me about Rebuilding Together; a few days later i was meeting a friend in Berkeley, and by coincidence I parked in front of the RTEBN office. When i went in to ask about the organization and the type of projects they did, I was invited to the 2009 House Captain informational meeting–the rest is history.
Q: Tell me about the projects you’ve worked on with RTEBN. What would you like to do?
My first project was in Berkeley, where I was the House Captain managing an outside painting and light repairs project for a homeowner. Since then, I’ve worked on several National Rebuilding Day projects in Berkeley and Richmond. Most of the projects have been painting projects, with small carpentry or plumbing repairs. The appreciation over the years from homeowners has been very rewarding.
In the near future, I’d like to be part of a committee that considers, evaluates, and implements energy efficiency standards into the repairs we do with RTEBN
Q: How has working with RTEBN impacted other areas of your life?
Working with RTEBN has given me a broader appreciation for work as a volunteer.
Q: As you might know, March is Women’s History Month. Trades work like what RTEBN does is often considered a “nontraditional” area for women; do you have any advice for women interested in working with RTEBN?
The advice I would give to other women is to get involved whether you have a trade skill or not, because these projects need your support. If you don’t have a particular trade skill now, you can (if you choose) learn a trade skill on or in advance of an RTEBN project. RTEBN training and support for the volunteers is truly exceptional. Volunteers who don’t have trade skills are valuable in other capacities, such as project coordinating, community outreach, and administrative support. It takes zero trade skills to give RTEBN a like or a tweet–anyone can help out!
Q: Any final words?
Get involved, volunteer, and have FUN!!!
Together with the Lane Family, the Berkeley Project, and UC Berkeley student group PILLS, Rebuilding Together East Bay-North was very pleased to work at Berkeley Youth Alternatives last week. Volunteers worked in two places: first, we cleaned, prepped, and painted the lobby, giving it a clean new look to welcome everyone into the building. Then, we cleared space and assembled furniture for the new Teen Room, a safe place for teens to relax, socialize, and be creative.
To learn more about Berkeley Youth Alternatives, visit their website.
Thanks to everyone who joined us at our December open house! With the delicious food and drinks from Next Door restaurant, the excellent raffle prizes, and the surprise appearance of the giant photo album, there was more than enough to keep us busy through our reservation. We had a blast, and we hope you did too.
Looking forward to seeing you again on National Rebuilding Day–April 26!