[Adapted from an article in The Farmington-Farmington Hills Patch by Joni Hubred-Golden. Read the full article here.]
Jim and Lisa Smith have lived in their Farmington Hills home for many years, and they knew the time was coming when they might not be able to stay there. Water leaking from the roof had damaged the home’s interior; exterior buildings needed paint; and the windows needed replacing. While the Smiths had always done everything on their own, for the first time, they needed help.
During the past month, Rebuilding Together Oakland has provided that help. With a grant from the Sears Heroes at Home program, which supports military veterans, active-duty service personnel and their families, the nonprofit organization martialed an army of volunteers to give the Smiths’ home a new lease on life.
“This gift is gonna allow me … the ability to stay here,” an overwhelmed Jim Smith said Saturday. He spoke to more than 30 volunteers who were preparing to put some of the finishing touches on home repairs. Among the volunteers were State Representative Vicki Barnett (37-Farmington Hills), U.S. Representative Gary Peters (9-Bloomfield Twp.), and Oakland County Commissioner Jim Nash.
Volunteer Dan Harmon said Rebuilding Together is a national group with 200 affiliates that focus on rebuilding or rehabilitating homes for low-income, senior citizen or military veteran homeowners, among others. The program follows federal income guidelines but also takes other factors, such as medical bills, into consideration in choosing projects. The Smith family certainly qualifies on the military front; in addition to Jim Smith’s Army service, son Michael served with the Navy in the Persian Gulf, and son John is a Marine currently stationed overseas.
On Saturday, volunteers worked on 50 homes in Oakland County, including 11 in Farmington Hills. Many of the projects started and stopped on the same day, Harmon said, but the Smiths’ home took a little longer.
“We’ve been here about four weeks,” he said. “Each house has a captain, a co-captain and a site coordinator, and they visit with the homeowner about the scope of the work. The homeowner signs off on the plan. … Anything we start in a home, we finish.” For the Smiths, that meant window replacements done by Hanson’s, a refurbished kitchen and bathroom, repair of water damage — including drywall and painting — as well as scraping and painting sheds and some landscaping.
Rep. Peters presented Smith with a flag flown over the Capitol building in Washington, and he also went to work scraping paint. “This is my third year,” Peters said. “I got involved when we learned about what (the organization) was doing. This represents the best of community action. It’s neighbors helping neighbors … reminiscent of the barn-raisings of past generations.”