A Grove City-based nonprofit organization that does repair work for low-income homeowners will be represented at Saturday's kickoff event for Home Safety Week.
If the people at the booth at the Home Depot on Stringtown Road from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. who are there on behalf of Rebuilding Together Central Ohio seem just a bit weary, it will be because they are resting up from their most exhausting weekend of the year.
Back when the local operation (of a movement that began in Midland, Texas, back in 1973) was then Rebuilding Together Columbus, organizers put on what they called "Christmas in April." Each year, volunteers fanned out across Columbus to fix up the homes of people who met income guidelines, particularly the elderly, those with disabilities or their caregivers.
Since the nonprofit agency, which operates out of a warehouse in Columbus but has its mailing address in Grove City, expanded to include all of central Ohio, volunteers fan out all across the region at all times of the year.
Still, executive director Julie A. Smith of Orient said, they engage in a full-court press of repair work during an April weekend in fond memory of the charity's roots. This year's "full-spectrum home repair" weekend was April 26-27.
Smith has been involved with Rebuilding Together since the local affiliate was founded by three University of Notre Dame graduates in 1991.
"One of them knew a plumber, and that's all it took," she said.
She, obviously, knew her husband, Steven M. Smith, and that was all it took for her to become involved.
"My husband was one of the first electricians and dragged me along, kicking and screaming," Julie Smith joked.
She's not kicking and screaming anymore, but instead is a firm believer in the program which has as its mission "to provide a warm, safe and dry living environment for low-income homeowners," according to the Web site.
"With an emphasis on families, elderly and those living with a disability, Rebuilding Together Central Ohio provides renovation services so that homeowners may live with independence and dignity," the site adds.
In some instances, in Julie Smith's experience, the repairs help people to simply live.
"A lot of them just die," she said of older people forced to give up their homes because they cannot keep up with maintenance. "They just fade."
"Rebuilding Together Central Ohio repairs typically include adding handrails to stairways, repairing and replacing dangerous steps, fixing dangerous electrical wiring or conditions, repairing plumbing fixtures, installing safety devices, painting interiors and exteriors, and general cleaning," according to the Web site.
The nonprofit organization receives funding from a variety of public and private sources, according to Smith. Eligibility is determined primarily on income. Those receiving services must be at least 60 years of age, be permanently disabled or be the caregiver to someone with a permanent disability.
When the Columbus affiliate was started by the Fighting Irish alums in 1991, Smith said that the area served was limited to within three miles of the intersection of Broad and High streets.
"That just didn't seem quite fair," she recalled.
Over time, operations were expanded to include all of Columbus and then, last year, to include Franklin County. This expansion of territory helped bring in additional sources of funding, Smith said, and enables the charity to help more people, particularly the elderly.
"Seniors are not on the top of anyone's list," she said. "We don't think of anyone with the asset of a home living in poverty É but over time it's becoming their biggest liability."
Roughly 1,200 people volunteer some of their time and skills to Rebuilding Together Central Ohio during the course of a year, the executive director said.
"We are a great opportunity for people to become community involved," Smith added. "We have a lot of weekend warriors.
"I work with the best people in the world; they're all volunteers."
For more information about Rebuilding Together Central Ohio, visit the Web site at www.rtcolumbus.org or contact Smith at 252-6392.