A widow whose home had fallen into disrepair after her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren moved in with her. An elderly couple living without a functioning bathroom for over a year. An older woman, who generously housed people and animals in need, about to have her own home condemned.
Thanks to the free repairs provided by Rebuilding Together Montgomery County, these four homeowners are now able to live safely and independently at home. They are among the nearly 2,500 low-income households since 1990 that have been served by the nonprofit organization, whose mission is to repair homes, revitalize communities and rebuild lives.
In a video testimonial, a homeowner identified as Ms. J thanked the nonprofit and its volunteers for saving her from being evicted — and improving her quality of life.
“RTMC is an extraordinary example of the power of people collaborating … to make life great again for all of us,” she said.
A local affiliate of Rebuilding Together, RTMC partners with
community volunteers, businesses and other nonprofit service providers — neighbors helping neighbors — to keep seniors, veterans, families and persons with disabilities in their homes.
“We serve people who are at 50% or lower of the area median income. So for a homeowner of one, the max income would be around $44,100,” says Maury Peterson, executive director of RTMC. “But the average homeowner that we’ve been helping makes only $22,000.”
RTMC receives funding from the county government and council, grants from organizations and individual donations. With the help of more than 500 volunteers, the nonprofit serves upward of 100 homes each year, providing kitchen and bathroom repairs, accessibility modifications and energy-efficiency upgrades. Because they have a wait list and limited funds, RTMC is prioritizing the most critical repairs, such as roofing, electrical, heating and plumbing.
“This week we had a call from the sister of a homeowner we had served in the past who had fallen and was in rehab at a hospital. She was set to come home soon and her sister realized her heating system wasn’t working, so we were able to get out there immediately and have someone replace it,” says Peterson.
When the pandemic hit last March, RTMC, which works with the county’s most vulnerable populations, paused its operations and created new protocols for its staff, clients and volunteers. Peterson says COVID-19 fundamentally changed RTMC’s business model.
“We relied so heavily on volunteer groups, and now we’ve pivoted to recruiting and paying general contractors,”
COVID-19 has also postponed RTMC’s flagship event, Rebuilding Day, which previously has taken place in the spring. Instead, hundreds of volunteers will come together on Sept. 11 and 12 with the goal to help 20 homeowners in need across Montgomery County.
Individuals can still volunteer for outdoor work and small projects. RTMC’s annual goal is to repair 112 homes, but this fiscal year, the organization is aiming for 178 homes by June 30. It recently hit 101.
“Montgomery County is so generous,” says Peterson. “We’ve gotten so many volunteers and some wonderful donors have come forward. Most of them are smaller donors, which is a great testament to the ‘neighbor helping neighbor’ approach.”
This story first appeared in the April-May issue of Montgomery Magazine.