A helping hand

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By Sandi Latimer
Staff Writer

Messenger photo by Sandi Latimer Noah Summerford nails a board in place as he and other volunteers build a fence for a westside couple on Rebuilding Together Central Ohio day. More than 625 volunteers fanned out in a neighborhood off West Broad Street May 3 to help make repairs at 17 homes of older adults.
Messenger photo by Sandi Latimer
Noah Summerford nails a board in place as he and other volunteers build a fence for a westside couple on Rebuilding Together Central Ohio day. More than 625 volunteers fanned out in a neighborhood off West Broad Street May 3 to help make repairs at 17 homes of older adults.

Westside residents Deborah and Greg Peaks wanted to put up a fence so their great grandchildren would have a safe place to play when they came to visit. But after Deborah suffered a series of strokes that affected her maneuverability and speech, many home repairs were put off.

In January, representatives of Rebuilding Together Central Ohio (RTCO) visited the little development where the Peaks live – south of West Broad Street, east of the Hollywood Casino and west of Wilson Road.

“They just asked what we needed done,” said Deborah, with husband Greg as they stood in their driveway on May 3, while behind them, volunteers worked on a fence.

The Peaks’ residence was one of 17 that RTCO selected for work that day. Many communities nationwide observed the day as National Rebuilding Day where volunteers fanned out into communities to help those less fortunate with home repairs.

When the plea for volunteers went out locally, along with a list of work they would be doing, the response came in.

“We had 625 volunteers,” said RTCO Executive Director Julie A. Smith.

They represented workers at sponsor companies, union locals, churches, banks, firefighters, and people who just wanted to help out.

“Our community needs to come together,” said Westgate resident Matt Burchfield as he helped hold boards so Noah Summerford could nail them in place for the fence. “We need to participate, to do something to help others. We need to be actively involved.”

After Mrs. Peaks suffered her strokes, what work the family had been planning was postponed.

“Electricians came out the week before to rewire the kitchen for them,” Smith said.

Electricians and plumbers also worked to move the Peaks’ washer and dryer to the main level of the house so Deborah wouldn’t have to ascend and descend stairs.

“We’ve worked all of lives. We own our own home,” said Deborah, hesitantly and struggling to form words. “Our finances changed.”

She said they didn’t always qualify for certain types of work and didn’t always get help.

“We appreciate it,” she said.”We thank all the volunteers.”

Another resident, Edwina Flemister, was equally pleased she was selected. She and her husband had done some work, but he passed away recently, and the grieving meant Edwina didn’t resume the work they planned.

Volunteers did electrical and plumbing repairs, put up new eaves, winterized her windows and doors, and planted flowers around the lamp at the corner of her front yard.

“They came and knocked on doors to see what we needed done,” Flemister said of the RTCO representatives. “They did a walk-through of my house.”

She said she was one of the early residents of the subdivision, arriving in 1974. With all the repairs, “it’s now ready for an appraisal.”

A drive through the neighborhood found volunteers hard at work at several houses. Some trimmed trees and shrubs, hauling the debris to the gathering point at 3761 Harding Dr. where another group cut it up and bagged it. Old eaves had been removed and hauled to the huge parking lot for proper disposal. A man dressed in a Santa suit helped distribute flats of flowers to be planted after a group of young adults, armed with equipment from the Tool Library which RTCO now operates, prepared the ground.

Among the supporters were American Electric Power, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 683, Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 189, Honda of America, Bricker & Eckler law firm, Columbus firefighters, and Wasserstrom.

RTCO has been performing such work for nearly 25 years. Last year, the agency served 101 homes in Franklin County, doing handyman repairs, plumbing electrical and furnace repair and more.

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