2018-05-03 / Around Town

Volunteers Rebuilding Together


Don Fennessey and Jonathan Wicks painting at the Pond Street House. Don Fennessey and Jonathan Wicks painting at the Pond Street House. Two local homes were given some TLC on April 28 by Rebuilding Together Greater Newport volunteers as part of ongoing efforts to assist low-income or disabled homeowners, particularly those who are elderly, or are families with children.

Organizer Susan McCoy has led the Rebuilding Together initiative in Newport County since opening a Newport affiliate nearly two decades ago. “Today, there are 33,000 volunteers [across the country],” she said. The organization’s vision is a “a safe and healthy home for every person.”

"This is just wonderful. I'm very grateful,” said Lynn (first names only), one of the homeowners.

The program, which started in 1973 in Midland, Texas, opened its national office in 1988, and since then has become a leading nonprofit community revitalization organization, with affiliates all over the country completing 10,000 projects a year.

Homeowners who receive the volunteer assistance pledge not to sell their property for two years following the repairs.

At the Pond Avenue home, where Lynn and her sister live, about a dozen volunteers from the First Presbyterian Church painted and replaced downspouts and several windows. They were joined by volunteers from the Newport County Board of Realtors, who planted flowers, cleaned up the yard and organized and cleaned the basement.

Nearly 15 Salve Regina University students and several members from the Newport Kiwanis Club volunteered at the Appleby Street house, the second residence selected.

Salve has been involved with Rebuilding Together for nearly 18 years. “This is the first time I’ve done this,” Salve junior Aysia Reese said. “I looked on the school’s community service section online and saw this. I wanted a way to give back to the community. It’s been great to meet different people. I’ve even gotten to know other Salve students.”


Garrett Behan of Behan Bros. Construction and Judi Smith worked on the rehab projects at the Applby house. (Photo by Lynne Tungett) Garrett Behan of Behan Bros. Construction and Judi Smith worked on the rehab projects at the Applby house. (Photo by Lynne Tungett) Kelly Powers, Salve’s volunteer coordinator, said, “We want to help people in their homes who can’t do things for themselves, whether from age or income.”

Judi Smith, a long-time Rebuilding volunteer, echoed that sentiment. "The lady who lives here has been here over 65 years,” she said. “I'm totally glad that we can help with the goal to keep her safe, warm and dry for as long as possible."

Kathleen Rendos, Kiwanis volunteer coordinator, said this was the third year the club has participated, and added, “We like to come together, get to know each other, and see what we can do as volunteers.”

The application process for homeowners begins in November, and the property owner needs to be considered low-income or disabled and pledges that the property will not be sold within two years after completion of repairs. After a home is selected, the to-do list is compiled. An estimated $5,000 is spent on each home, with the work being completed in one day.

Many of the repairs and tasks, such as electrical or roof work, require professional skills. “Rebuilding is always thankful for contractors who volunteer their service. There are many types of repairs that cannot be performed by the lay volunteer,” McCoy said.

The professional rehab for the two Newport homes this year was provided by Behan Bros. and Fulvio Pires contractors.

“I grew up in the neighborhood,” said Lynn. “And in August I will have owned this house for 30 years.” – NTW Staff

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