Rebuilding Oakland Together is all about neighbors helping neighbors. And that is exactly what 1,300 volunteers around Oakland County did on Saturday, May 7 — they helped community members in need repair their homes and spruce up their yards.
Rebuilding Together is a leading non-profit organization that works “to preserve affordable home ownership and revitalize communities by providing free home modifications and repairs, making homes safer, more accessible, and more energy efficient,” according to Pat Dohany, treasurer of the Rebuilding Together Oakland County Board of Directors.
The national Rebuilding Together organization began in 1988, and the Oakland County affiliate was founded in 1992 by Pat Woods, who was treasurer in Highland Township at the time, and Denise Sanborn of Milford.
Since then, the Rebuilding Together Oakland County group has rehabilitated over 450 homes in addition to a number of non-profit facilities, which has added over $4 million in market value to county neighborhoods and communities.
This year, 51 homes were repaired and transformed across Oakland County, including in the lakes area.
“All the work is done in one day,” Dohany said. “You start at 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. and go to you’re done. It’s pretty intense.”
Sometimes not all work can be completed in one day, and the workers will come back the next day to finish.
“Sometimes our hearts are a bit bigger than we can back up. Some groups promised more than they could do in one day. So they return the next day,” said Teri Colman, who is a team leader in the lakes area, along with Dohany.
Of the 51 homes that were worked on in Oakland County, 10 of them are located in the lakes area.
The 10 houses were divided among two teams led by Dohany in Commerce, Wolverine Lake, Wixom, and Walled Lake, and Colman in White Lake, Milford, and Highland.
Seventy committed Wixom volunteers, together with the Walled Lake Eagles and Wixom local business Dantom Corporation, worked side-by-side to rebuild an underprivileged resident’s home during last weekend’s effort.
Together the group rebuilt a home in the 2000 block of Fairfield at the northern end of Wixom. The team finished the same day they started.
“It’s always an awesome sight when 70 people show up to help a community member by giving up their time and effort,” said Assistant Wixom City Manager Tony Nowicki.
Interior projects included renovating the kitchen by repairing cabinets, and installing a new sink, cupboards and lighting.
Bathroom enhancements were also completed, including caulking and installing shower handles, rods and a new shower head, in addition to painting.
Minor alterations were facilitated in the bedroom and living area.
Exterior work included painting and minor electrical projects, replacing gutters, and installing a new back deck, as well as vinyl siding on the front of the house.
The team also facilitated various yard improvements such as tree trimming, planting new shrubbery and flowers, and spreading mulch and grass seed.
Keith Erdman, president of the Walled Lake Eagles, took up the mantle to shore up supplies and set up the operation.
“He was instrumental in providing contractors, also,” said Wixom Parks and Recreation Director Deanna Magee.
Each of the Rebuilding Oakland Together projects is intended for low-income Oakland County residents who are either elderly, disabled, military veterans, or families with children that are unable to do the work themselves . The group’s mission is to bring volunteers and communities together to improve the homes and lives of low-income homeowners.
“It’s a great program for us in that it not only helps a community members in need, but it continues to draw the community closer and build relationships among residents and city staff,” Nowicki said.
Across the county, work was done that included repairs in kitchens and bathrooms, repainting interiors, landscaping, installing windows, and replacing roofs. Decks and porches were also installed or repaired.
Materials and supplies came from a variety of places. The organization does significant fund-raising throughout the year, with various churches and businesses contributing funds. The organization also receives grants, while local businesses provide thousands of dollars worth of materials.
Volunteers come from all over. Colman’s groups are mainly comprised of six church groups: Highland United Methodist, Milford United Methodist, Highland Congregational Church, Faith Lutheran Church, Our Lady of Refuge, and White Lake Presbyterian.
Both Colman and Dohany had about 250 volunteers in each of their groups.
“We also had a neat group unique to our area,” Dohany said. “Roving Landscape, in addition to our five houses, went to five other houses and did landscaping for people who can’t take care of those things themselves.”
The group is comprised of students from Walled Lake Northern High School and a local Girl Scout troop.
Dohany integrated the national program into the community and became the regional district coordinator, according to Nowicki.
“He (Dohany) spearheaded the whole program here in Oakland County and is still very active in the program,” Nowicki said. “He brings energy and dedication to a program that historically helps needy people such as elderly widows and disabled veterans.”
Both Colman and Dohany said they were pleased with the day.
“The best part is the end of the day when you see how much you can accomplish in one day. I just want to say thanks to all our volunteers and donors. It was a wonderful day,” Colman said.
Dohany agreed, as he talked about his “magic moment of the day.”
“Everybody has their own story as they’re at different places at different times, and I just so happened to be at the house in Wixom when the homeowner came home. And it was like that show ‘Extreme Makeover’ on TV, when the owner pulled into the driveway for the first time. You could see and hear how excited she was.”