Grab bar installation

Low Cost Home Modifications to Prevent Falls

Rebuilding Together Arlington/Fairfax/Falls Church has developed an effective system for identifying and correcting fall hazards in low-income seniors’ homes. Our Rebuilding Together Express program won the Commonwealth Council on Aging’s Best Practices award in 2018. In completing repairs to more than 218 homes we’ve demonstrated that relatively simple and low-cost repairs, modifications, and equipment can correct most fall hazards. Our small teams of RT Express volunteers correct 95% of fall hazards through half-day projects spending less than $500 for materials. ​Click the image below to watch the presentation that Don Ryan and Lucy Stein made at the Virginia Governor’s Conference on Aging.

Presenters: Don Ryan, Rebuilding Together Arlington/Fairfax/Falls Church
Lucy Stein, MSOTR/L, CAPS MedStar Health

IRA Charitable Rollovers are a Win-Win-Win

by Andrew Dumont, Chair

Did you know you can support no-cost home repairs for low-income homeowners, lower your taxes, and meet your Individual Retirement Account’s (IRA) required minimum distribution? That’s what I call a win-win-win, and it is possible if you direct your IRA’s trustee to make a qualified charitable distribution to Rebuilding Together Arlington/Fairfax/Falls Church (RT-AFF).

As you may know, if you are the owner of a traditional IRA, you must generally start receiving distributions from your IRA by April 1 of the year following the year in which you reach age 72. These distributions must equal at least a minimum amount, commonly referred to as the required minimum distribution.

What you may not know is that qualified charitable distributions (QCDs) count towards your required minimum distribution. A QCD is generally a nontaxable distribution made directly by the trustee of your IRA (other than a SEP or SIMPLE IRA) to an organization eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions (like RT-AFF!). You must be at least age 70 1/2 when the distribution was made.

The maximum annual exclusion for QCD’s is $100,000. Any QCD in excess of the $100,000 exclusion limit is included in income like any other distribution. If you file a joint return, your spouse can also have a QCD and exclude up to $100,000 from his or her income. The amount of the QCD is limited to the amount of the distribution that would otherwise be included in income. If your IRA includes nondeductible contributions, the distribution is first considered to be paid out of otherwise taxable income. It is important to note that you can’t also claim a charitable contribution deduction for any QCD that you have excluded from your income. Read more

Installing a railing

Celebrating our 218th RT Express Project!

Created in 2015 to fill a gap in our services, Rebuilding Together Express (RT Express) augments and complements our traditional home repair program. RT Express allows us to respond more rapidly to help more low-income homeowners age in place safely and comfortably. RT Express has evolved steadily. In 2015 we tested this model in eight homes, in 2016 we adjusted the scope and repairs and refined procedures through 22 pilot projects, and in 2017 we increased capacity and standardized procedures to complete home modifications and repairs on 35 homes. Now in 2020 we are celebrating our 218th project!

Nine highly committed Team Leaders have been the heart and soul of RT Express over the past five years – Bob Austin, Brian Goggin, Mark Heslep, Patrick Hughes, Bard Jackson, Bill Marshall, Don McCubbin, Ken Mittelholtz and Woody Woodburn. They collaborate with RT-AFF staff to make a comprehensive assessment of each home, develop the scope of work, assemble tools and materials, oversee the repairs and establish a trusting relationship with our homeowners, who are mostly senior citizens. Fall safety is a top priority, with grab bars, double stair rails, comfort-height toilets, and brighter lighting leading the list of repairs. RT Express projects also address fire safety, security, moisture and ventilation problems, and energy-saving upgrades.

RT Express has drawn a pool of skilled and talented volunteers who work regularly on projects and take deep satisfaction in learning from each other and in making dramatic differences in our clients’ lives. “It’s so gratifying to put my remodeling skills to work to make such a profound difference in someone’s life,” said team leader Bob Austin.

Since the beginning of our RT Express program, our volunteers have been able to correct 95% of fall hazards and 92% of ALL hazards for the homeowners we’ve served. We measure our success using Rebuilding Together’s list of 25 Health and Safety Priorities.

Homeowner Mrs. B wrote this note to us to express her gratitude for the repairs and modifications we made at her home:

“The railing on the back stairs and the railing in the house and the gravel under the driveway and… I can’t name just one repair that made the biggest difference for me! All the repairs have lifted my spirits and made a big difference in my sense of physical and mental wellbeing.”

Please visit our Flickr page to see photos from our RT Express projects and many other projects we’ve completed for homeowners in need. We are extremely thankful to our RT Express Team Leaders and the men and women who have made it possible to help so many seniors age safely in place.

Check out our Flickr page for more project photos.

Railings, Half steps, Grab Bars

Grab bars, railings, dryer vents

Wells Fargo Foundation

Wells Fargo Grant Provides Critical Repairs for Homeowner in Fairfax

Wells Fargo FoundationReplacing a roof is expensive and not part of our regular scope of work, so when RT-AFF received Mrs. T’s application we weren’t sure we could help her. Thanks to a grant from The Wells Fargo Foundation, a national partner of Rebuilding Together, we were able to make this critical home repair that allows her to live safely in her home of 24 years.

“I will always be very grateful for everything you did for me. I want to express my gratitude to Wells Fargo, Mr. Don, Mr. Jon and all of the angel volunteers who fixed my house and made it safe,” exclaimed Mrs. T.

Mrs. T learned about RT-AFF when she opened her Fairfax County Real Estate Tax Waiver mailing and found a flyer describing our program. It was very difficult for her to ask for help because she took pride in her independence, but her roof was leaking in many places and her kitchen ceiling had collapsed.

Mrs. T and her husband owned a successful restaurant in their home country. After immigrating to the U.S. to find safety and new opportunities for their teenaged children, they worked for a catering company, received security clearance, and served at many events for government agencies and at the White House. Their son served in the U.S. Air Force and completed four tours of duty in Iraq. He also ran for office in county government. When Mr. T became ill and had to stop working the children shifted their lives to be nearby to help their parents.

Living on one income was difficult and when the roof started leaking Mrs. T placed buckets around the house to catch the water. After Mr. T passed away the close-knit family continued to help as best they could. But the buckets catching rain were multiplying and during one storm the kitchen ceiling became so waterlogged it came tumbling down. Then the pandemic hit and Mrs. T lost her catering job. Every storm caused new worries that the roof wouldn’t hold, especially when the wind howled. She was desperate for help.

The Wells Fargo Foundation grant allowed Rebuilding Together – AFF to hire a contractor to replace Mrs. T’s roof. After the roof was replaced and the house was water-tight, RT-AFF volunteers repaired the kitchen ceiling, installed a donated dishwasher, added grab bars, railings and new lighting and made many other repairs that resolved 13 Health and Safety Priorities. Now that Mrs. T’s home meets all 25 Rebuilding Together Health and Safety Priorities she feels safe and sound and looks forward to living there for many more years.

Volunteers working inside

Roofers at work

 

We have a lot more photos from this project and others on our Flickr albums.

Lou at work

Behind the Scenes with Lou Wood – RT-AFF Stair Lift Expert

Lou developed a process that ensures the donated stair lifts are in good working order and can be safely re-used, spending about 10 hours on each donated stair lift.

Multiple Critical Repairs Help Springfield Family

Miller & Long pouring new concrete, volunteers from the Faith Church Kingstowne team, Steve Schoepke (l-r)

Homes that present multiple critical health and safety hazards challenge Rebuilding Together-AFF to be creative in gathering the right volunteers and resources to make the homes safe.

The L family’s home in Springfield needed critical repairs. They had a major moisture problem that required demolishing the sidewalk next to their home and pouring 150 square feet of concrete to correct the slope so that rain flowed away from the house. A crew of professionals from Miller and Long, one of our valued corporate partners, tackled this task and completed the work in just one day.

With the major moisture problem solved, our partners from Faith Church Kingstowne mobilized a team of 50 volunteers to make a host of repairs inside and out on their rebuilding day. They painted, repaired drywall, replaced kitchen cabinets, made safety modifications to reduce the homeowner’s risk of falls, and corrected moisture and ventilation problems. The homeowners also had three complex plumbing repairs (including one emergency) that required special skills so Rebuilding Together – AFF made a quick call to volunteer Steve Schoepke, who came to the rescue the same day.

Family members were delighted to receive help and gratefully worked along side the volunteers. Through this layered approach to repairs and modifications we were able to address 17 critical health and safety issues for the family and their home now meets all 25 of RT-AFF’s Health and Safety Priorities. Check out our Flickr albums for more project pictures.

Pictured below are our partners from Faith Church Kingstowne.

USAA Grant Funds Deep Repairs for a Veteran in Alexandria

Mr. S proudly served in the US Marine Corps in Vietnam and then spent 40 years working for the Washington Post. His wife was employed by the General Services Administration and they enjoyed being part of their community. But ten years ago Mrs. S became disabled and Mr. S retired to become her full-time care-giver. He built a wheelchair ramp so he could bring her home from rehab and then safely get her out of the house to go to doctor’s appointments. He was grateful that he could bring her home and take care of her so she didn’t have to live in a nursing home but over the years as his health declined he could no longer keep up with home repairs and the ramp had deteriorated and become unsafe. He applied to Rebuilding Together – AFF after learning about our work from a home health aide and a grant from USAA allowed us to rebuild the ramp and make extensive repairs in other areas of the couple’s home.

Twenty-nine volunteers signed on to help with the project. The first team arrived on site on a frosty morning and got right to work demolishing the old ramp. They quickly filled a 20-yard dumpster with the debris and the team leaders developed the plan to construct the new ramp. The ramp came together like clockwork in one day as the volunteers stepped into their roles. They constructed a porch deck so that Mrs. S could roll out the front door onto the ramp. Framework for the 50-foot ramp was built on the solid upright posts that Mr. S had installed 10 years ago. One team focused on cutting planks for the deck of the ramp while others screwed them down. Other volunteers puzzled through the pieces needed to make the turns so the boards on the deck of the ramp fit together as smoothly as possible. Plank by plank, screw by screw, the ramp was completed and as the sun began to set the volunteers took a brief moment to celebrate their amazing accomplishment. Mrs. S. would be able to use the ramp that night in case of an emergency. Mr. S walked up onto the ramp and gratefully said “I could never have done this myself. Thank you!”

Read more

RT-AFF Conducts AmeriCorps Member Training for RT National

RT-AFF was pleased to partner with our National Office to plan, manage and execute the 2018 AmeriCorps Members training and project days this August. RT-AFF volunteers Bard Jackson and Bob Austin joined consultant Armand Magnelli and RT-AFF staff member Don Ryan to conduct a one-day formal training in safe and healthy home repairs. They set-up hands-on work stations to demonstrate the right methods and materials for installing grab bars, gutters and downspouts, clothes dryer vents and other repairs. Behind the scenes, Marcy Bartlett, RT-AFF Director of Programs orchestrated the two day project where the AmeriCorps members would put their classroom training to work. We were fortunate that Marcy agreed to stay on for the month of August and put in a tremendous effort to make her last project for RT-AFF a successful and meaningful experience for the homeowners, AmeriCorps Members and RT-AFF volunteers. Read more

Sears Heroes@Home Volunteers Help Multi-generational Veteran Family

On July 17, 2018 Rebuilding Together Arlington/Fairfax/Falls Church and Sears partnered in Alexandria to serve a multi-generational veteran family as part of the Sears Heroes at Home program. Read more

Time Flies: RT Express Teams Have Helped 75 Seniors Age in Place in Their Homes

Our vision for Rebuilding Together Express has come true:  small teams of 4-5 volunteers, working 4-5 hours, and spending $400-$500 for materials are helping seniors age in place safely in their homes. We’ve refined our procedures, enlisted the help of more than 40 volunteers who want to work regularly throughout the year, and completed repairs to more than 75 homes. Read more