Column: Rebuilding Together Alexandria

Column: Rebuilding Together Alexandria

2017 is bringing a lot of change to the world. On the heels of Martin Luther King Day and with planning in motion for Rebuilding Together Alexandria’s National Rebuilding Day (April 29), I want to take pause, be mindful, and revel at the everyday volunteers that make our organization a year-round support system for low-income homeowners.

Our “Mod”ification Squad has 20 active volunteers that have taken on almost 50 projects for homeowners. They take on projects independently, set their own schedule, and work on tasks that are of interest to their skill set. From installing grab bars to provide stability for our older homeowners, to fixing small plumbing leaks or electrical issues, they handle it all. Many have been volunteering their time and expertise with us for years, supervising teams of volunteers on National Rebuilding Day or assisting us with special projects year-round.

One Mod Squad member, David, started working with us last summer. His first introduction to our organization was a group project where he and a few other brave volunteers tirelessly pulled up extremely soiled carpet of an elderly homeowner. Not deterred by the work, he has since taken on seven other Mod Squad projects and attended two group projects.

In David’s own words: “After I retired, I spent a month or two sleeping in, going out to breakfast and lunch with friends, and doing honeydoos around my house. Eventually, I decided that I would gradually take on volunteer ‘jobs’ until my plate was full. I looked for two types; those where I would use mainly my mind and those where I was using my hands. I thought Rebuilding Together was a good fit for the ‘hands on’ work. I like that I’m helping people, even in some small way, to keep living independently. Most of my clients are to the stage of their lives that getting on a ladder is just a really bad idea. Many of my tasks they likely did when they were younger but have now lost too much stability and dexterity to complete. It’s interesting hearing about their lives and where they worked; most at the same organization their entire career. One woman wanted to make sure I noticed the license plate on her car that looked a little like a ‘30s-gangster car. It was personalized plate short for Bonnie and Clyde. While it usually takes me twice as long as estimated to complete every assignment, I don’t think my clients mind and it’s kind of fun for both of us to visit while I work. The biggest surprise has been how much I’ve used my brain. Because these homes are old and built to an older code, it usually takes some time to figure out how to complete the task with modern parts, even if it is as simple as replacing an electrical outlet. I enjoy the tasks and people so much that I’ve been trying to recruit other friends to participate with me. Meet interesting people; no bureaucracy; pick my tasks; set my own schedule; know when the job is done; and use my hands and brain – it’s kind of an ideal job. I volunteer because it’s what we are supposed to do; help each other out.”

So as Martin Luther King Jr. remarked, “Life's most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” Whether you become part of our volunteer task force or create a group and volunteer on National Rebuilding Day, we will be thrilled you want to join our team and be the reason why a low-income neighbor can focus on paying for food, medicine, and other necessities. We encourage you to sponsor a team, get your hands dirty, and get involved. For more information call 703-836-1021, email, or visit