When the team from Rebuilding Together Montgomery County arrived at Eula Knight’s home in Montgomery Village, she had already gone through a period of homelessness and was afraid that the poor condition of her house and her limited finances would leave her without a home again.
“It was so depressing,” Knight says. “The house was so old and torn up.”
Knight, 97, who uses a walker and had a fractured rib at the time, was physically and financially unable to handle the repairs herself. That’s where Rebuilding Together Montgomery County came in. Her home was to be one of the more than 100 houses that the organization works on every year at no cost to low-income homeowners.
The Gaithersburg-based nonprofit connects homeowners with skilled professionals to handle extensive repairs. In Knight’s home, the workers did an energy audit to reduce her utility bills, replaced the heating and cooling systems, repaired the roof, and installed a new garbage disposal, fire extinguisher and smoke detectors.
For less-skilled labor, Rebuilding Together Montgomery County relies on nearly 1,000 volunteers annually. The national Rebuilding Together organization, which has local affiliates in 39 states, hosts National Rebuilding Day every April, when its staff assigns projects to community volunteers who work directly with homeowners. This year, volunteers for Rebuilding Together Montgomery County worked on 13 homes. The group at Knight’s home painted, installed towel bars and helped with landscaping.
“Those people were wonderful,” Knight says. “They talked to me, showed me how to use my new thermostat. They showed me what I needed to know.”
Since many of the people helped by Rebuilding Together are elderly, one of the goals is to allow them to age in place by making their homes more accessible and functional. Nelson Nguyen, a program manager for Rebuilding Together Montgomery County, is continuing to help Knight. He says his next goal is to find a way to install a chairlift on her stairs, since she essentially has to crawl up to her bed at night.
“The majority of Americans prefer to age in place,” Nguyen says. “They financially and emotionally have been invested in their home…so they don’t want to leave.”
Knight is thrilled to be staying in her home. “I was so relieved to know I was not going to be homeless again,” she says. “To me, [the people from Rebuilding Together] were all like God’s angels. I was so very grateful to them for all of their kindness.”