In addition to making an impact in the community and helping people stay at home, the best part of Becky Carter’s job is the hugs.
“I love homeowner hugs. That’s always the best thing,” said Carter, executive director at Rebuilding Together Nashville, a nonprofit that restores, rebuilds, and provides crucial repairs at homes of low-income residents free of charge.
Whether it’s the hug she receives in the morning or the hug she receives in the afternoon, Carter said the people they help – mostly elderly – are so overjoyed that somebody remembered them.
“They just had no place else to turn,” she said.
With RTN, now they do.
RTN is part of a national organization, Rebuilding Together, which has 166 affiliates across the country. Each nonprofit is set up in its own community to meet the needs of that community. RTN has served the Nashville area since 1994.
The most common repairs performed are flooring, plumbing, and electrical work, as well as accessibility modifications for seniors and the addition or repair of exterior wheelchair ramps.
“We do a little bit of everything. We like to take what we call a whole-house approach. We do an assessment of all the things that might be possible for a repair and really write up a work scope. Once we’ve done that inspection we kind of look at all the things and see how things play into each other.”
Becky Carter, Executive Director at Rebuilding Together Nashville
They always start with health and safety first.
That includes making sure people have a working smoke detector, that their house number is visible from the street should emergency services need to find them, making sure the stove is vented properly, and removing carpet because that’s usually a big allergen concern.
How long RTN spends on a house depends on the magnitude of the project and the different “layers of funding.”
Some years it may have money to help do roof repairs and some years it may have money to do other projects. RTN raises all of its funds through a variety of channels, including individuals, businesses, corporations that support their work, foundations and grants, and government funding.
RTN also raises funds through events, much like its spring rebuild that was held April 23. With the help of 35-40 volunteers, RTN worked on three houses in North Nashville. Plumbing, floor repair, and even pouring a new sidewalk was just some of the work involved.
The spring rebuild happens every year, and all 166 branches of Rebuilding Together host their own events.
Carter said a family or a homeowner can apply for RTN’s services every three years.
“If we’re only able to put a wheelchair ramp in, but in a couple years something goes wrong with the plumbing, then they can re-apply and we can try to provide assistance,” she said. “We get a lot of requests for help, so we put that three-year waiting list in for some space and try to make sure we can get to everybody that we can.”
On average, RTN is doing a project every 10 days, working with all skill-sets and skill levels so that it can find a job for everybody.
“We have real skilled folks from the contractor community or architects, and then we have the regular volunteers like myself that maybe have only ever painted, hung a picture, or something like that,” Carter said.
The house captains lead the team of what RTN call regular volunteers or unskilled volunteers.
“It’s a combination of the skilled and unskilled folks that are the driving force behind this, so we couldn’t do this without them,” Carter said. “We’re always looking for more help. I think everybody has a skill-set that they can lend, even if it’s not necessarily swinging a hammer. It can be through marketing, or raising money, or just talking to a homeowner.”