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Rebuilding For The Future

A non-profit group uses volunteers to make a house more efficient and cost-effective.

Retrofitting a home or apartment to make it more energy efficient is one easy way to save money. Not only are utility bills lowered but there are also environmental benefits.

However, these renovations, which can require major structural alterations to the building, are sometimes pricey. That’s where the non-profit group Rebuilding Together comes in.

Rebuilding Together is a national organization founded in 1973 that seeks to help low-income homeowners make their houses more affordable to maintain.

Rebuilding Together's vice president, John White, said that his organization repairs and rehabilitates roughly 900 homes a year across the country with more than 275,000 volunteers.

Earlier this month, volunteers organized by Rebuilding Together renovated a group home for the developmentally disabled in Arlington.

The home, located at 1422 North Fillmore Street, is owned by Community Residences, "An organization that provides housing for individuals with developmental disabilities and mental illness," according to its manager, Chris Rinehimer.

Rinehimer expressed gratefulness that Rebuilding Together worked on the North Fillmore home.

"Our property was a good fit for this," he said. "We were lucky enough to be selected."

THE REBUILDING TOGETHER volunteers had their work cut out for them at the home.

Patti Dennis, the executive director of Rebuilding Together’s Arlington/Fairfax office, said that the group installed ceiling fans in the four upper bedrooms, changed out all of the home’s lights to compact fluorescent bulbs, re-screened windows, put in weather stripping and did gardening and yard work.

They even painted all four upstairs bedrooms, using colors chosen by the seven residents of the home.

"That was kind of nice," Dennis said. "It sure did give a boost to the people who live there."

Dennis said that Rebuilding Together decided to renovate the Community Residences home because they wanted to benefit the charitable organization in a lasting way.

"Being a non-profit, you’re counting your pennies," she said. "We wanted to save money for them in the long-term."

And, thanks to Rebuilding Together, they will be saving a substantial amount of money.

RINEHIMER SAID that the property, which has been owned by Community Residences for 20 years, will be 30 percent less expensive to maintain after Rebuilding Together’s renovations.

This, he said, will translate into a savings of about $2,000 per year.

"We’ll be able to put that money into other services in that house," Rinehimer said. "We’ll continue to benefit from it."

He described the project as a "big success" and said that "Sometimes we have groups that do a one day project but this [project] will keep giving back to us."

However, Rinehimer said that the most important benefit of Rebuilding Together’s project is that "It reinforces to the residents that there are people in community that care about them and that they’re a welcome part of community."