Karen Stewart thought the offer was too good to be true -- but the small army of volunteers that arrived at her Westphal Avenue residence May 6 proved it wasn't.
"When they knocked on my door to tell me about it, I didn't quite believe it ... but here they all are. I can't say thank you enough," Stewart said, as she and her husband, Jerry, watched a team of volunteers from Bricker & Eckler LLP make repairs and upgrades inside and outside their house.
The Stewarts' residence was one of 16 in Whitehall's Glencoe neighborhood -- all on Elaine Road or Erickson, Westphal or Pierce avenues -- that were part of the annual signature event of Rebuilding Together Central Ohio.
Each year, the nonprofit organization marshals the resources of typically more than 100 volunteers to make improvements to numerous residences in a selected subdivision.
Rebuilding Together Central Ohio performs such work throughout the year, with small groups working at one residence at a time, but each spring, it selects a subdivision and helps more than a dozen homeowners on a single day.
For the third consecutive year, that neighborhood was in Whitehall.
Julie Smith, executive director of Rebuilding Together Central Ohio, said the streak is unprecedented, but deserved.
Last year, 16 homeowners in Norton Field benefited from the program; in 2015, volunteers worked in Country Club Village.
"Whitehall is a wonderful partner," Smith said. "They don't just sit on the sideline."
The city provides ATVs to allow volunteers to zoom between sites. It also collects garbage, waives permit fees when applicable and, most significantly, helps identify potential recipients and promotes the program.
Whitehall staff members join those from Rebuilding Together Central Ohio in visiting the selected neighborhood months in advance, knocking on doors of homes such as the Stewarts'.
"I told them I'd be happy if they could just put a missing shutter back up," Karen Stewart said.
The Stewarts moved into their Westphal Avenue residence from Georgia three years ago.
On May 6, volunteers from Bricker & Eckler painted inside the house, installed new faucets and spruced up exterior landscaping.
"It's a great community project and we enjoy doing it," said Matt Stout, an attorney and partner at the law firm.
Rebuilding Together Central Ohio owes its existence to Brickler & Eckler; it was founded 27 years ago by three men who participated in a Rebuilding Together chapter while they were students at Notre Dame University.
Attorneys Jim Flynn and David Martin and accountant Mark Shary established central Ohio's chapter while at Brickler & Eckler.
'A kid at Christmas'
A few doors down from the Stewart residence, a team from Honda of America was rebuilding a porch and helping pour a new concrete driveway May 6.
"Not bad for a bunch of guys that build cars," said Tony Cuzzolini, as he and another employee leveled off the freshly poured concrete.
Cuzzolini, who works in the auto manufacturer's quality-control division, said the company strives to perform several community projects every year.
"It was a broken-up asphalt driveway. It was pretty bad," said Marcia Cousins, who has lived there for 20 years.
The contribution of volunteers was especially meaningful for the Rev. Toby Cambron, pastor of Westphal Baptist Church, who has served the congregation for 24 years.
"I feel like a kid at Christmas as I get to go around and see what's happening," said Cambron, who offered his church as the staging location for volunteers.
Cambron joined Mayor Kim Maggard and other city officials in a visit to several residences, including that of Linda Ruh of Westphal Avenue.
Ruh, 66, has lived in the four-room residence since her parents brought her home from the hospital after her birth.
She and her six siblings were raised at the residence, about a half-mile from Westphal Baptist Church, where she attends services and teaches Sunday school.
Ruh has become visually impaired, so volunteers installed new railings on her porch.
She also received a new stove -- something Cambron said will benefit her and church parishioners, as Ruh's homemade pies are well-loved.
"I was shocked this morning that so many people showed up," Ruh said May 6.
A team from American Electric Power worked at Ruh's residence.
Maggard said it is meaningful to witness the impact of the service volunteers provide.
"This is my community and whenever we can do something to improve the quality of life, it serves everyone in the community," Maggard said.
The work is performed at no cost to the residents.
"We really are changing people's lives," said Brian Offenbacher, board chairman of Rebuilding Together Central Ohio. "They can stay in their homes when they otherwise might not be able to do so."