Rebuilding Together Day, Year 12: Bringing the Community Together

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Rebuilding Together Day, Year 12: Bringing the Community Together

At French Gerleman, we enjoy giving back to the communities we serve. In St. Louis, we are passionate about Rebuilding Together and are proud that so many employees and vendors were willing to donate their time, money and products to help others in the community. This was our 12th year participating in Rebuilding Together Day, and this year was extra special as we experienced some challenges that put our team to the test.

In February, we were assigned our home and we assembled our team. Bob Anderson stepped up to be our House Captain this year, and Vickie Katashuk returned as our Volunteer Coordinator for the seventh year.

When we met with Rebuilding Together about our assigned home, they detailed the home’s issues that needed attention to make it more livable and secure. After our initial meeting with the Rebuilding Together team, we had a couple months to meet with the homeowner and tour her house to confirm the projects that we would take on and begin compiling the items needed.

The homeowner we partnered with this year was Miss Joyce Johnson-Seddens, a lovely, kind woman in her 60s who lives in north St. Louis. When you meet Joyce, you can’t help but love her. We had originally outlined this project to cover fixing her AC unit, painting the exterior of her home, updating her yard and retaining wall and various minor repairs around the house. After touring the home and talking to Miss Joyce about what would help make her home more livable and functional for HER, we decided we needed to add a few projects to our list! That list included:

  • New AC unit
  • Exterior paint
  • New retaining wall
  • Yard work/clean up
  • Fix fencing in yard
  • Safety measures – fix railings in basement and front stairs
  • Replace glass panel doors with security doors
  • Post repair
  • Install new LED lighting throughout the house
  • Install gutter guards
  • New crawl space doors
  • Cleaned the house
  • New garbage disposal

The funding from Rebuilding Together was tight this year, so we knew we needed to work hard to stay in budget or get items donated. We only had a budget of $1,000 from Rebuilding Together, so we knew we needed to solicit additional donations. Between employees, vendors and customers, we pulled together more than $3,000 in donations (monetary and materials) for the project!

It’s amazing to see our community come together to help someone in need. We called Vogel AC to help us fix Miss Joyce’s AC unit that had not been functioning for quite some time. Vogel was kind enough to donate and install a brand new AC unit, going above and beyond our expectations. This is something Joyce desperately needed for the hot St. Louis summer days.

The LED lighting that we installed throughout the house was provided by Philips and Lithonia Lighting. Not only does the new lighting help improve the overall appearance of her home, but the technology will save her hundreds of dollars on energy bills! When Miss Joyce found out how much money she would be saving, her face lit up and she was thrilled. It’s moments like that, when you see the homeowner get emotional, that makes all of our team’s hard work worth it.

We also had a plumber at the house doing some minor repairs and he saw that her garbage disposal was not working. He happened to have one in his truck and he gave it to her! The kindness we experienced throughout this process is truly overwhelming and we feel incredibly lucky.

Rebuilding Day might just be one day, but because of the scope of the project and our desire to provide the best experience for Miss Joyce, we had volunteers at the home throughout the week leading up to the Day and many days following to ensure we completed each task. In total, we had 24 volunteers who came out to join us at Rebuilding Day, ranging from French Gerleman employees, families, friends and even customers from Lange Tech. Some of our volunteers had to battle the flooding to make it out to help, which we thought would be a setback, but they braved the elements! One of our volunteers had a flooded basement at his house, but he joined us because he felt like it was his commitment and where he needed to be.

“Rebuilding Together Day can be stressful,” said Bob.  “We’re worried about getting all of our projects completed, we sometimes experience setbacks and the work is hard, physically and emotionally. But at the end of the day, you forget about the stress, the pain and the long hours when you see the look on the homeowner’s face, the emotion and pure joy they experience when they see their ‘new’ home.”

When we asked Vickie what brings her back to Rebuilding Together, year after year, she said, “You replace that person’s face with a family member’s face, someone you love. You would take care of your family and do anything to ensure that they are safe, secure and comfortable. That’s exactly what we do for these people. We love these people and will take care of them like they are our family, just like we hope someone would do for our family members if they were in need.”

A big thank you to our wonderful volunteers, employees, vendors and customers who supported our team through this process and Rebuilding Together.  Without all of you, it wouldn’t be possible to raise the donations we did or to accomplish all the projects we did for Miss Joyce.

And a special thank you to Bob and Vickie for their selfless, hard work and dedication to Rebuilding Together. They went above and beyond to make sure Miss Joyce’s house was safe, secure and that the remodel made an impact on her life.

Are you or your business looking for a great organization to support? Rebuilding Together is a wonderful organization who could use some help, both monetary donations and volunteers are greatly appreciated. Be sure to visit http://www.rebuildingtogether-stl.org/ to learn more.


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French Gerleman Gives Back Through Rebuilding Together

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.

Vickie & Tom (2)

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.

Ramp Railing 5

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.

Bathroom Door Install 2

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

Bedroom 1 Floor Install 1

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.

Bedroom 2 Ceiling Fan install 2

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.

Small Group Pic

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.”

Home owner James & Vickie (2)

“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.