Home Mods: 'Everything Was Falling Apart'

Volunteer construction program an answer to the prayers of one low-income homeowner with MD

The Rebuilding Together crew of Denver takes a break with Richard Cordova (far left)
by Alyssa Quintero on September 1, 2008 - 2:01pm

QUEST Vol. 15, No. 5

In Commerce City, Colo., Richard Cordova was in desperate need of home modifications and repairs but had no funds to cover them.

Cordova, who has an undiagnosed form of muscular dystrophy, has lived in his home for 30 years. Living alone and experiencing increasing weakness in his arms, hands and legs, the retired baker could see that “everything was falling apart,” so he prayed for a miracle.

“I couldn’t keep up with repairs because I’ve lost a lot of muscle strength in my hands and fingers, and can’t grip anything,” Cordova, 67, explained. “I can’t get it all done because I get so tired.”

In 2007, Cordova read about a national organization called Rebuilding Together, which has a local affiliate in Denver. He submitted an application requesting help with a dilapidated fence and a roof that wasn’t up to code.

Based in Washington state, Rebuilding Together has some 225 affiliates in 12 regions that rehabilitate homes for lowincome homeowners who are elderly or disabled. Each affiliate sets income requirements and musters local volunteer teams consisting of skilled tradespeople, professional contractors and ordinary citizens.

Funds are given to vendors, not directly to families. “We want families to not have to make a choice between getting a medication or getting a ramp,” said Becky Carter, Rebuilding Together’s national marketing and public relations coordinator.

Celebrating its 20th year, the program has rehabilitated 100,000 homes nationwide. Modifications and repairs typically include (but aren’t limited to) wheelchair ramps, doorway widening, bathroom and kitchen remodels, roll-in showers, tub cuts, handrails and grab bars.

This past April during the organization’s National Rebuilding Day, affiliates across the country repaired and modified 7,000 homes with the help of more than 200,000 volunteers. Several affiliates also rehabilitate homes year-round.

Richard Cordova
An appreciative Richard Cordova.

Once an application is selected, the affiliate’s team visits the home, evaluates the application and notes additional modifications or repairs that may be needed, especially if the person has a progressive physical disability like muscular dystrophy.

On June 13, a team of 37 volunteers transformed Cordova’s home.

“I was overwhelmed with tears of joy,” Cordova recalled. “My prayers were answered, and I was so happy. I didn’t realize it was going to be so big. All I had asked for was help with the fence and roof, but they came in and did all kinds of stuff. Boy, was I tickled pink.”

The repairs/modifications included:

  • Bathroom
    • bathtub cut — cut out part of the center and turned it into a shower so Cordova can walk straight in without stepping over the side
    • shower benches
    • hand-held shower
    • grab bars for stability
    • light fixture
  • Furnace, roof and gutters (installed by professionals)
  • Handrails and non-slip surfaces on basement stairs
  • Grab bars in key locations
  • Replaced the stove range hood
  • Painted ceilings, walls and trim in bathroom, hall, living room and kitchen
  • Caulked around windows and doors
  • Replaced weather stripping on exterior door
  • Painted and repaired loose sections in garage
  • Replaced damaged fence
  • Installed carbon monoxide detector, fire extinguisher and smoke detectors
  • Installed foam gaskets on switches and outlets to reduce air leaks
  • Replaced door knobs with levered door handles

Cordova said, “I don’t want to be a burden on my kids, and I would’ve done all of this myself if I were healthy, but I can’t grab a hammer or hold a nail.

“Rebuilding Together can do a lot that you can’t do for yourself, and they make it easier for you to live in your home. I really appreciate it from the bottom of my heart.”

Laurie Wagner, development director for the Denver affiliate, said her office receives about 700 applications each year and provides assistance to about 400 households. It completes about 75 large projects like Cordova’s and hundreds of other small projects each year.

Like many affiliates, Denver also provides emergency repair assistance, as well as future modifications as a person’s physical disability progresses.

To locate a Rebuilding Together affiliate in your area, call the national headquarters at (800) 473-4229, or visit www.rebuildingtogether.org/content/organization/map. If you don’t live in one of the 12 regions, the national office will try to connect you with a network partner that may be able to help.

For other local, state and national funding resources for disability-related home modifications and repairs, check out InfoQuest.


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