Column: Gumball Memories

Column: Gumball Memories

Rebuilding Together Alexandria

Volunteers from Dominion Virginia Power help repair and maintain a home for Rebuilding Together Alexandria.

Volunteers from Dominion Virginia Power help repair and maintain a home for Rebuilding Together Alexandria. Photo Contributed

Alexandria holds a lifetime of memories for Bernadette*. She is the last of three generations to call the city home.

She fondly remembers the colorful gumballs in the gumball machine and the elevator in the furniture store that her family owned on King Street — the only one in the city at the time. They sold the store in the early ‘60s, but it shaped her perspective on how the city has grown and changed.

Bernadette has seen the city expand and grow in affluence. When she was young, she recalled many boarded-up buildings and not being able to walk far alone. She also relishes the renaissance of Del Ray, where she lived for some time. Although the city is a stronger and more vibrant community, the growth has also meant higher costs of living.

Her family has mostly passed now, but she still has many friends and her beloved dog, which keep her rooted here. She really wants to be around when her friend’s children have children.

Her home is her haven where her friends visit often, hanging out on her patio and enjoying the neighborhood. Bernadette’s favorite room though is her photo-filled living room. But on her waitress salary, it is difficult to afford the upkeep on her home.

That’s why when her best friend’s son referred her to Rebuilding Together Alexandria, she immediately reached out. Every day, Rebuilding Together Alexandria works to preserve housing affordability and revitalize the Alexandria community by providing free, safe, and healthy home repairs to people like Bernadette. Throughout the year, we work with low-income, elderly and/or disabled homeowners to identify issues in their homes. Then our teams of volunteers — many from local businesses like Dominion Virginia Power and Wells Fargo — provide the fixes and upgrades.

At Bernadette’s, our volunteer team caulked the bathroom, fixed a broken window pane, hung blinds, patched a hole in the wall and showed her how to replace her air conditioner filter. In addition, we arranged for a plumber to fix her leaky sink. Bernadette feels good about the changes to her house, commenting that “Rebuilding Together is awesome … and everyone is so nice.”

These type of upgrades are important since most of our clients are homeowners who live near the poverty level. By improving their housing conditions, we can help them remain active members of their neighborhood and in turn help our city remain economically, socially and culturally diverse.

If you know someone like Bernadette who could benefit from our services, we encourage you to introduce them to us. To learn more, visit or call 703-836-1021.

*It is Rebuilding Together Alexandria’s policy to not disclose full names.