05/16/2013 12:28 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Building to Spring

Rebuilding Together Alexandria

The fluctuating temperatures may make it difficult to tell that it's spring. That's why some locals peg spring's arrival to the blossoms, but here in Alexandria, we know it's tied to National Rebuilding Day -- the ultimate sign of renewal and revitalization.


On this day, volunteers throughout the nation spread out to help neighbors with repairs and upgrades to their homes. The work was 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 long-time 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.

Here in the City of Alexandria during National Rebuilding Day, 800 volunteers fixed fences, installed doors and windows, repaired bathrooms, cleared yards, put in cabinets and fans -- all at no charge for homeowners in need, including elderly, disabled, military veterans and families. Their efforts meant that 40 neighbors and their families don't have to make tough choices about paying for medicine or food or home maintenance.

Just ask Margaret, a widowed, long-time city resident. Margaret retired from Alexandria Hospital, but remains active in the community, even volunteering at a local homeless shelter. She now lives in the house she grew up in, moving in to care for her own aging parents who have since passed. Now this great-grandmother needed a little help too. As she and the house aged, the upkeep became more than she could do or afford. With the help of Rebuilding Together Alexandria volunteers, who painted, put in a new microwave and fan, did yard work, and installed safety rails in the bathroom, her home is a safer and healthier place to live, so she can continue living in the community she loves.


This year's event also focused on helping transform homeowners' yards to ensure that they have healthy food options. Obesity is a serious issue affecting nearly a third of U.S. adults, according to the CDC; and can greatly contribute to health problems. In addition, low-income families face the additional challenge of eating nutritious foods within their budgets. That's why our volunteers planted raised vegetable gardens and showed 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. Rebuilding Together affiliates work throughout the country. 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. Healthy communities depend on having long-time, committed homeowners like Margaret to continue being neighbors.