If you’ve never heard of Rebuilding Together, it’s a great organization that we’re proud to be a part of at French Gerleman. Rebuilding Together hosts an annual Rebuilding Day – a single day in the spring where volunteers come together to lend a hand to low-income homeowners in the St. Louis area to improve the safety and comfort of their home.
For the 10th year, French Gerleman hosted a Rebuilding Together team, and this year, French Gerleman had more than 30 employees, friends and family members who teamed up to rehab a house for an exceptional man.
Larry Lipschutz was the House Captain and Vickie Katashuk was the Volunteer Coordinator for this year’s project. Together they created an amazing team who spent countless hours cleaning, painting, making renovations and building a safe and updated home.
The homeowner we partnered with this year is James Williams, a double amputee in his 60s who lives alone in his St. Louis home. James had built a makeshift plywood ramp to get into his home, but had slipped off it in the rain, causing a major safety concern. His main desire in a remodeled home was a safe wheelchair ramp and adding extra security features to the home.
Before starting the project, our team likes to sit down and talk to the homeowner to understand their needs and desires in a home, to build a wish list of projects to tackle. From talking to James, the French Gerleman Rebuilding Together team identified a list of projects to tackle. They included:
- Building a wider ramp with a six foot deck to allow James to sit outside without blocking his door
- Replacing a glass door for safety
- Installing security bars on basement windows
- Replacing the air conditioner’s condenser unit
- Widening the bathroom door from 28″ to 32″ for wheelchair accessibility and installing shower bench and hand-held shower
- Painting the home’s exterior and several interior rooms
- Replacing landscaping walls
- Installing laminate flooring in living room
Originally, Rebuilding Together had the air conditioner condenser on the approved project list and that item was to be donated by one of the many labor unions that help out on Rebuilding Together Day. Later it was determined that the union funds were over committed, and it would no longer be covered. French Gerleman didn’t want to let Mr. Williams down, so an e-mail was sent out to our vendors and, by the next day, enough funding was donated to allow us to proceed! With those funds and additional donations from vendors and employees, we were able to arrange for the air conditioner and purchase laminate flooring for the hallway and bedrooms, in addition to the living room.
Other items donated included:
- Curtains and curtain rods
- Ceiling fans
- GFCI outlets (indoor and outdoor)
- Door knobs
- Energy-efficient LED light bulbs throughout the house
- Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
- Security light fixture over the air conditioner and a security cage
Why does French Gerleman participate in Rebuilding Together year after year? Easy. It’s a great opportunity to not only give back to our community, but it’s also a great team building experience for our employees, and a wonderful way to get our vendors involved. It’s our opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life and grow as a team.
This year, because of the expansive scope of the project, we had volunteers at the home throughout the week leading up to Rebuilding Day, and we even had a team who went out the week after to finish projects that we just couldn’t complete on Rebuilding Day. All told, we had 300+ people hours volunteered for the project.
“Getting our French Gerleman team together to volunteer with Rebuilding Together, you really get to know your coworkers on a deeper level, and there’s a genuine camaraderie on the team,” said House Captain, Larry Lipschutz. “It’s a lot of work and can seem overwhelming, but knowing you have the support of your team, the work becomes easier.”
“You can’t help but fall in love with the person you are helping,” said Volunteer Coordinator, Vickie Katashuk. “You picture that person as your family member, and how you would want the best for that person. We all fell in love with James and wanted to go above and beyond to make him feel comfortable and safe in his home.”
Thank you to all of our vendors and employees who donated either their time, money or items for this project. We are extremely grateful to work with such a giving group.