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Baltimore organization helps homeowners make crucial home improvements

Andrea Blackstone | 10/2/2015, 6:02 a.m.
On September 25, 2015, a beautiful sunny day, it was like Christmas in September for 68-year-old Mary Madden.
(Top left) Bonnie Bessor (second on the left) leads Rebuilding Together Baltimore, a non-profit organization that matches low-income homeowners like Mary Madden (second on the right) with volunteer teams to provide critical home repairs free of charge. (Photo: Andrea Blackstone)

On September 25, 2015, a beautiful sunny day, it was like Christmas in September for 68-year-old Mary Madden.

A volunteer repairs the ceiling.

(Photo: Andrea Blackstone)

A volunteer repairs the ceiling.

Twenty-seven volunteers made improvements to Madden’s home located in the Woodbourne-McCabe neighborhood. Rebuilding Together Baltimore (RTB) has been recruiting applicants in need of home repairs in Woodbourne-McCabe and Turner Station in Dundalk. When Madden, a retiree on a fixed income, received a flyer informing her about the non-profit organization’s free home repair services, she called the same day to inquire about the program.

Founded in 1989, RTB helps to preserve affordable homeownership, by working with low-income homeowners to help make their homes warmer, safer and drier. Revitalizing communities is also a part of RTB’s mission. Homeowners with critical needs are matched with volunteer teams. Repairs in neighborhoods located in Baltimore City and Baltimore County, are made on a year-round basis.

“I am happy to be selected to have my home fixed up. It is very gratifying,” Madden said. “Of course it is a financial relief, because some of the things that they are doing, I wouldn’t be able to do them, because I am on a fixed-income. I would have to wait until I saved up enough money, or pray that I get something from my income tax to do some of the things that I wanted to get done that they are doing for me now, today.”

Some of many home improvements made in Madden’s bathroom include the installation of a comfort height toilet and grab bars. Electrical repairs were made inside of Madden’s home. Her kitchen walls were primed for a coat of paint. Doors and windows were sealed with caulking to prevent heat loss. Water damaged spots on the ceiling were patched with plaster. Handrails were secured on the front porch. Weeds were removed from around her fence. At the back of Madden’s home, some of the exterior was painted. A nearby park was cleaned up and beautified. Across the alley, work in 81-year-old Sedonia Byrd’s home was finalized on the same day. Byrd’s home of 53 years needed kitchen flooring, a new stove, sink, countertops and cabinets. Most materials used by RTB are purchased with charitable contributions.

Bonnie Bessor, executive director of RTB, explained that 30-40 homes are typically repaired in target neighborhoods, where the organization concentrates on working over a two-year period.

“They [applicants] do have to own their home and occupy it. They either have to be over 60 [years old], have a disability or be a family with children, and they have to meet certain income guidelines that are based on household size. Most of the people we serve are seniors on a fixed-income so they easily meet our income guidelines,” Bessor said.

Volunteers from the corporate community are frequently mobilized to support RTB’s mission. On Friday, September 25, 2015, twenty employees from Medifast, a weight-loss company based in Owings Mills volunteered to help repair Madden’s home. Employees also gave Madden a basket of cleaning supplies. The team building activity enabled the employees to have fun while contributing to the community.

“We started what we call these community impact days earlier this year and we found that our employees absolutely love it,” Brian Kagen, the chief marketing officer of Medifast said. “It is the first time we worked with Rebuilding Together Baltimore, and hopefully it will be the first of many.”

For more information about RTB’s meowner eligibility requirements regarding home repair help in target neighborhoods, call 410-889-2710 or visit: www.RTBaltimore.org.