To the editor:
Is it spring yet? Some locals peg spring’s arrival to the cherry blossoms, but here in Alexandria, we know it’s tied to National Rebuilding Day — the ultimate sign of renewal and revitalization.
On Saturday, hundreds of volunteers will spread out across the city and help neighbors with home repairs and upgrades. The work is fun but also important as more low-income homeowners struggle to maintain their homes.
After all, the affordable housing squeeze that many experience also impacts longtime homeowners, who can’t afford to move but have difficulty affording to stay as well. Helping these homeowners remain in their homes is important to strengthening our community and preserving affordable housing.
During National Rebuilding Day, 800 volunteers will fix fences and bathrooms, clear yards, and install doors, windows and cabinets — all at no charge to homeowners in need, including veterans, families, the elderly and disabled. Their efforts mean that these neighbors don’t have to make tough choices about paying for medicine or food or home repairs.
Just ask Archie, a widowed, longtime city resident. Archie, who served in the 1st Calvary in Korea, had a volunteer team help him during last year’s National Rebuilding Day. In 1971, he moved to Alexandria to work for the government and bought a two-story brick row home for his wife and two children. Active in the community, he coached youth football for many years and still loves football season.
But as he and the house aged, the upkeep became more than he could do or afford. With the help of Rebuilding Together volunteers — who cut down trees that were too close to the house and then cleaned up, repaired walls, and secured handrails — his home is a safer and healthier place to live. He can continue residing in the community he loves.
This year’s event also will focus on helping transform homeowners’ yards to ensure that they have healthy food options. Obesity is a serious issue affecting nearly one-third of the nation’s adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and can greatly contribute to health problems.
In addition, low-income families face the additional challenge of buying nutritious foods while staying within their budgets. That’s why our volunteers also will plant raised vegetable gardens and show homeowners how to maintain them as part of our efforts to help clients eat healthier.
We hope other members of the community will get inspired by the spring weather and join us as volunteers or donors. We also need people to let their struggling neighbors know about our services. It could make all the difference in whether they stay in their homes.
And for the health of our community, it’s important to have longtime, committed homeowners like Archie remain our neighbors. If you know of anyone who would benefit from our services or would like to help, contact us at rebuildingtogetheralex.org.
– Katharine Dixon
Executive director, Rebuilding Together Alexandria