PENINSULA — A Peninsula group called Rebuilding Together has a message:
Help is on the way.
The all-volunteer group exists to help low-income homeowners fix up their homes.
And its members have enjoyed some success, helping fix up 340 homes in the past decade. This year the group has already assisted with 28 homes — well on its way to matching its annual average of 30 to 40.
Unlike Habitat for Humanity, the national group that builds new homes from the ground up, Rebuilding Together’s focus reflects its name. It is all about fixing existing houses.
Nationwide there are about 140 groups, and the Long Beach operation is one of the smallest.
“The whole idea of this is to keep people in their homes — safe and warm,” said Magen Michaud, treasurer of the local chapter.
Members of the group are mindful that Pacific County often appears on listings as one of the poorest counties in Washington. The year-round population, especially on the Long Beach Peninsula, consists of many low-income people, often elderly; many are veterans needing help.
People who would like help must apply through the Information and Assistance center on Pacific Highway just north of Long Beach. They must own and live in their own homes, and meet low-income criteria.
These applications are then reviewed by a seven-member board of Rebuilding Together.
“Everybody who calls gets considered,” Michaud said.
The board then puts together all-volunteer teams to get jobs scheduled. They call on about 20 volunteers, but basically it’s a core of about 10. Because of this, leaders are eager for more volunteers to step up.
Projects have included fixing or eliminating dry rot on decks, removing tripping hazards, adding rails to handicapped-access ramps, replacing old windows or old worn carpet with more durable flooring, installing grab bars in bathrooms and installing new hot water tanks.
In one recent case, volunteers installed an incinerator-style toilet.
“We have a lot of people in need,” said Michaud.
The average age of the people they have helped is 71 with an annual income of about $16,000. The average beginning value of the houses is $52,000.
“This is a really harsh coastal environment. We have a lot of mobile or manufactured homes that don’t do well in this environment,” she added.
“People tend to defer maintenance, but we want to help them stay healthy and safe. Summer is the best time to get ready for winter. It is the best time to replace the roof or fix leaks.”
Roof work is conducted by local licensed contractors, many of whom give the group favorable rates. So, too, is plumbing and electrical work that requires an expert. The volunteer group makes sure it buys locally when gathering materials for its repair.
Churches, Boy Scout troops and fraternal groups like the Eagles Aerie, Moose and Elks lodges are among those whose members have pitched in to assist.
The board of Rebuilding Together especially appreciates Long Beach Mayor Jerry Phillips’ support recruiting help and getting the word out about the program.
Phillips, in turn, commended their work. “It is a fantastic program for our seniors and people on a tight budget,” the mayor said. “There are some very sad stories and a lot of people don’t know it exists.
“It is an organization that needs people who have skills with construction, and have their own tools, as well as donations.”
Magen Michaud, a retired government worker, came to the Peninsula from Renton in 2015 with husband Nick Michaud.
“I like using my skills and talents to give back to the community and as a way to help other people,” Magen Michaud said. “It was always our plan to build a house and join up with this sort of thing.”
That belief was echoed by her husband, who serves on the board and lends considerable practical expertise from his work as a contractor.
“You get a good feeling, said Nick Michaud. “Life has been good to us — we want to give back.”
The jobs are varied.
“One man leaned against his home and went through to the plaster board,” Michaud added. “We replaced two sides with siding.”
The group’s president is Joe Cade, a retired Bonneville Power Administration energy conservation officer who moved to the Peninsula from Portland in 2009.
He has similar anecdotes about projects. One house in Long Beach had walls that were leaning in two directions.
“We jacked up the house and successfully cleared up the yard, too.” Cade said.
And for him, the camaraderie of recruiting others into the organization is rewarding.
“I enjoy helping people and seeing the community improved,” he said. “I enjoy seeing people help other people — when you are working with a band of volunteers and they all say that it feels really good.”
The Rebuilding Together board meets on the last Wednesday of each month at 5:15 p.m. at the Ocean Park Library. Visitors are welcome to attend to learn more about the program and how they can help.
The group is also looking for donations which can be mailed or brought to the meeting.