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Keep up with the latest from Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh!

 
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August 3rd, 2020

Hi [Re]Builders,

It's been a while! RTP has been hard at work continuing to serve low-income homeowners in Allegheny County. We wanted to share a story with you about a repair project that wrapped up just a few weeks ago in the Hill District...

LaChelle’s family has been in the Hill District for 4 generations. Her grandmother was a day worker on Cherokee Street when it was mostly occupied by wealthier, white Pittsburghers. She was well-liked and eventually one of the women she worked for offered to rent her a small house on Cherokee Street. LaChelle recounts, "so she moved here with her five kids and raised a family. My mother is 97 years old now and lives just down the street with my sister. She’s been on Cherokee street her whole life.”
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RTP finished up work in LaChelle’s home the first week of July but began in October 2019 with her first project: secure a new roof to prevent further damage during the winter season. We executed the remainder of LaChelle’s repair project beginning in March of this year, which included a full remodel of her second floor bathroom, significant patching and plastering of damaged ceilings throughout the home, installation of new vinyl flooring in her front hallway, and replacement of a leaking p-trap under the kitchen sink.
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Before repairs began in Ms. LaChelle's Hill District home
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After repairs were completed in Ms. LaChelle's Hill District home

When I asked what these repairs meant to her, she offers “My kids are grown and gone now, so it’s different. These repairs mean I can feel safe staying here. But I’m glad to be alone right now—it’s nice not to be stuck with a quarantine partner!” She laughs and mentions that she’s been happily divorced for 12 years.

As we talk, LaChelle shares the moment that she began looking for the house on Cherokee Street. She recounted a memory of climbing up 65 stairs to her apartment in a subsidized housing complex while also carrying a heavy bag of laundry and toting her two children up the stairs. Her oldest son, then a toddler, said his legs were tired—"that was the moment I knew it was time to leave.” She points at her front steps "I bought this house later that year. After that he only had two steps to walk up.”

I ask LaChelle why she thought homeownership was important.

“You know it’s expensive. When something goes wrong you can’t just call the landlord. But if you’re renting, you’re just not getting ahead. It’s hard to keep up with the repairs sometimes, but it’s mine. My sister and my mother live down the street. I love this neighborhood. When my kids were growing up my house and porch was always full. All the neighbor kids would come here. This is it.”


RTP contracted with Jeff LeBlanc of LeBlanc Contracting for LaChelle’s project. Before they were set to commence work, the COVID-19 pandemic had become more serious in Allegheny County and stricter safety protocols were implemented on-site to keep our homeowners safe during the repair process. I asked Jeff how COVID had affected their workflow, and he said it hadn’t much.
 
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LeBlanc Contracting sealed up their worksite and followed strict COVID-19 safety protocols while working at Ms. LaChelle's.

“We just brought the etiquette that we use on “high-end” worksites to LaChelle’s house. We sealed up the worksite and cleaned up and sanitized really well as we left.”

Jeff and his crew have been contracting with Rebuilding Together for about half a year now. I asked him what he felt was different about work with RTP and our clients as opposed to his other contracting work, he shared that it was ultimately more fulfilling for him and the team.

“We’re really helping people instead of contributing to gentrification in this city, and that’s incredibly satisfying.”

 

July 15th, 2020
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Since 2010, RTP has hosted dozens of AmeriCorps members through CapacityCorps, an AmeriCorps program whose members serve 11-month terms at Rebuilding Together affiliates around the country. These AmeriCorps members help improve the lives of low-income homeowners through hands-on repairs, community outreach, and more—all while earning an education award to help with expenses for past or future degrees.

The teammates that we have gained through the AmeriCorps program have been beyond stellar over the years, so much so that we currently have 6 full-time staff members who started their career at RTP through the CapacityCorps program. Combined, they have more than 20 years of experience at Rebuilding Together!

Our organization has grown immensely over the past decade, and a large part of that is due to the added capacity that AmeriCorps members have brought to RTP. As a result of that growth, we have restructured some of the ways in which our organization functions. To that end, we will be ending our decade-long partnership with AmeriCorps. To celebrate this important milestone, we asked some of our current staff members (who began their careers with RTP through the AmeriCorps program) a few questions about their service terms with Rebuilding Together.
 
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Left to right, Jule Panaro, Ian McNeill, Sarah Tiffany-Appleton, and Bri Castle
 

Jule Panaro, Client Relations Coordinator AmeriCorps 2019

What was the single most important thing that you learned/took away from your AmeriCorps experience? How did your service impact the way that you approach community building in your work today?

The term allowed me to see firsthand the important work that is being done to improve the communities of Pittsburgh. I was able to step into a strong organization like RTP and watch as clients’ situations were improved drastically, it really was an amazing experience. It made me realize how fulfilling it is to work in a job with a role that directly contributes to helping others, which is something I plan to continue throughout my career.




Ian McNeill, Home Assessment Manager AmeriCorps 2014

What does service mean to you?

To me, it is simply helping your neighbors on a consistent basis--and we are all neighbors, we all share the same Earth. In a world that at times seems consumed by hyper-individualism, I turn to my favorite quote from Roberto Clemente: "Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don't, then you are wasting your time on Earth.” Changing the world doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking. If we all do a little, then nobody has to do it all.


Sarah Tiffany-Appleton, Senior Project Manager AmeriCorps 2016

AmeriCorps is dedicated to strengthening our communities; can you tell me how you feel you were able to contribute to strengthening the Pittsburgh community during your term with RTP?

I served primarily in Hazelwood, where I was lucky to work with and learn from a team of work-experience crew members that were part of RTP’s Jobs First Program. Some, like me, were learning the ropes, while others had years of expertise to share with the group. With each new project, I began to see the cumulative impact of our work in the community and the progression of skills we gained as a group. I feel lucky for this vantage point -- the experience of working with the same team in the same neighborhood for the duration of my term made visible the larger impact of RTP’s work (and the work of RTP’s community partners), in one of Pittsburgh’s most historically and currently significant neighborhoods.


Bri Castle, Volunteer Project Manager AmeriCorps 2017

What does service mean to you?

I believe service involves dedicating yourself to a cause greater than yourself. It means using your time, effort, and talents to redistribute resources to communities that have been forgotten, oppressed, or otherwise marginalized. Service involves an intense amount of listening to those you are serving, taking time to analyze your own identity and role in creating change, and allowing your work to extend into your personal life and habits. And in this way, service becomes a mutually beneficial exchange – we grow and benefit as much as the people we serve. It's not just a 9-5; service is a way of being.



Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh would simply not be the organization that it is today without the support
and capacity of AmeriCorps. The legacy and impact of their effortswill stay with Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh forever.

Enjoy the rest of this beautiful week, [Re]Builders, and remember thatwe are stronger together!
 

Scroll to the bottom of this newsletter for information on upcoming volunteer opportunities
 

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Upcoming Volunteer Opportunities:

Thursday 7/16, 9am-3pm: 2-3 Volunteers needed to move furniture back into a Homewood repair project that is wrapping up!

Monday 7/20 & Tuesday, 7/21 9am-3pm: 2-3 Volunteers needed each day to remove furniture from a home in preparation for their construction scope. Some demolition may be involved.

Contact Bri Castle at bcastle@rtpittsburgh.org or (412) 287-0937 for more information.

 

July 1st, 2020
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Two Pittsburgh Nonprofits—Conservation Consultants, Inc. and Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh—Merge


Combined they will provide more Western Pennsylvanians
with safe and healthy homes



PITTSBURGH, PA (June 29, 2020)—Today, the boards of directors of two local nonprofit organizations with a shared focus on Healthy Homes voted to join forces in a merger, effective on July 1, 2020 . Conservation Consultants, Inc. (CCI) will add its more than 40 years of experience making in-home, hands-on energy assessments and improvements to the growing suite of Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh (RTP) programs for lower-income homeowners in Western Pennsylvania. The merged organization, which will operate under the Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh brand, will continue to offer vital home repair services while also building bridges between residents and the broader health- and safety-oriented services they need.

CCI and RTP have been increasingly collaborative over the past several years as they shared resources and effort while conducting outreach to residents, coordinating with local community development corporations and delivering meaningful, long-term outcomes for local stakeholders. Successful efforts have included the signing of the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative Compact and the repair of more than 50 homes in the Hill District, Homewood and East Liberty to be healthier and more energy efficient.
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“We have always shared common values and a commitment to serve individuals and families with fewer resources with CCI” said Steve Hellner-Burris, chief executive officer of Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh. “This merger creates a stronger organization with more expertise to identify and remedy the compounding, home-based issues affecting our clients such as mold, radon, and carbon monoxide.”

CCI has been a regional champion for residential energy efficiency and home health for decades. Joining that longstanding commitment with RTP’s direct service model will allow the merged organization to provide thoughtful leadership on issues and advocacy for policies that improve healthy housing conditions for low-income families.

Many of CCI’s professional staff are being retained in their mission-critical roles. Select members of the CCI Board are continuing their service as members of RTP’s board of directors.

“CCI and RTP bring together complementary skills sets, expertise, programs and areas of geographic service. We are excited to be providing more environmentally friendly, energy efficient, and whole-home repair services to create sustainable healthy homes in our region,” said Jeaneen Zappa, executive director of Conservation Consultants, Inc. “We are setting the stage for more robust, combined services and a thoughtful advocacy and community engagement approach.”
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Much of CCI’s programming is tied to its successful track record as a contractor helping local utility companies manage their universal services programs for their clients with lower incomes. This work will continue at Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh by continuing to conduct audits, manage programs and conduct quality assurance for both Columbia Gas and Duquesne Light Company.

ABOUT REBUILDING TOGETHER PITTSBURGH

Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh (RTP) rebuilds homes for seniors, veterans, and persons with physical disabilities with the lasting impact of stabilizing and revitalizing the region’s neighborhoods because everyone deserves to live in a safe and healthy home. The majority of RTP’s work is completed in places identified as Comprehensive Impact Neighborhoods. Since its founding in 1993, RTP has grown into a nonprofit organization with an annual budget of more than $6 million that supports the work of 29 staff and more than 1,000 volunteers completing more than 100 physical rehabilitation projects annually for low-income homeowners in Allegheny County. For more information, visit rtpittsburgh.org

June 19th, 2020
BLACK LIVES MATTER
Dear ReBuilders,

Today is Juneteenth, a celebration marking the emancipation of remaining enslaved African-Americans in the Confederacy in 1865.

Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh stands in solidarity with the Black community and those mourning the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and so many others. The protests that are occurring across the world and here in Pittsburgh are showing us that systemic injustice - and specifically racism in the criminal justice system - cannot be ignored or dismissed as it has been in the past.

As an organization, we are welcomed into homes and community of color. While we have always rooted our housing work in equity and inclusion, we recognize that we still have more work to do. Our first step is the creation of a committee to thoroughly review and assess our organization's programs and practices, and we look forward to sharing more concrete measures to which we will hold ourselves accountable in the days ahead.


We invite our community of ReBuilders to celebrate Juneteenth by attending an event, making a donation to an organization that prioritizes, supports, and uplifts our Black community members, or speaking frankly with family members and friends about equity and justice.

Information on some of the many community events taking place today:
  • Join the socially distanced outdoor Juneteenth celebration in Homewood near RTP’s offices. Sankofa Village Project’s Freedom Celebration takes place today from 4-8pm, all ages welcome
  • Those who would like to participate from home can join the Juneteenth Freedom Day Walk presented by Stop the Violence PGH, a Facebook Livestream event highlighting historic Black spaces. Join them on their Facebook Page @Western Pennsylvania Juneteenth starting at 1pm.
  • Visit our partner Neighborhood Allies to learn more about other Juneteenth celebrations, actions, a list of local organizations to support, and the myriad ways you can uplift our Black Community.
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May 29th, 2020
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Hello [Re]Builders!


As restrictions ease in our region, Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh is happy to announce a new opportunity to get involved with us!

In March, to meet the pressing needs of our senior homeowners, we increased our case management services and began a food access program.

This effort has involved collaborating with 7 community partners, becoming a monthly senior box distribution site, and relying on 20 staff and volunteers to pick up food from local pantries and deliver to seniors’ doorsteps.

To date, we have delivered over 9,500 pounds of food to 101 unique households. Whew!!

Now, we’d like to supplement this program with the [Re]Builder’s Care Package Drive!

Through this drive, we can make our trips more meaningful by providing essential items that are often unavailable at food pantries and nearby stores.

What does a Care Package include?

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As we continue to stay relevant and support those at risk of COVID-19, we need your support!

If you’re interested in creating packages, if you’d like to drop off items for packages, or if you’d like to support in making deliveries, please complete this brief survey.

Watch this video to learn more and get inspired!

Alternatively, you can contact our Volunteer Project Manager, Bri Castle, at 484-773-1567 or bcastle@rtpittsburgh.org.

We look forward to working alongside our community of [Re]Builders to help support our neighbors during this time. If you don't see an engagement opportunity here that suits your needs, please reach out to us and share your ideas!


 
Visit us at www.rtpittsburgh.org/volunteer to learn more about ways that individuals and groups can get involved with our work.

May 15th, 2020

Hi [Re]Builders!

It is truly astounding what we can accomplish when we band together (at a distance!). On Wednesday, the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank delivered 75 senior boxes of shelf-stable food to the Rebuilding Together warehouse. With the help of two of our dedicated Dream Team volunteers, Carmen and Denny, we then delivered over a ton of food to area seniors!
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Though our core mission remains to make homes safe and healthy, we are excited to team up with local food justice organizations and our network of community partners to help reach as many of our neighbors as possible. We have been granted status as an official long-term distribution site for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program and will be continuing to make bi-weekly no-contact food deliveries to our clients in this time of crisis, but we need your help to do it. Let's team up and help our neighbors!

As always, RTP wishes our community of ReBuilders abundant health and wellness.

Sincerely,
Steve Hellner-Burris



If you'd like to help with our food distribution efforts or are interested in other individual volunteer opportunities, please reach out to our Volunteer Program Manager, Bri Castle at 484-773-1567 or bcastle@rtpittsburgh.org

May 6th, 2020
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Dear ReBuilders,

We are so thankful for each and every one of you. In this time of adversity, the exceptional generosity you all extended this #GivingTuesdayNow was a great reminder of just how strong we are when we band together.

Your support truly makes our programs possible! While our operations look different for the time being, we are still hard at work to keep our low-income and senior neighbors safe and comfortable as they shelter in place.

Last year, 759 volunteers donated their time to help complete 134 home repair projects. We anticipate that we will have very limited capacity for volunteerism in 2020, making our community's financial support even more essential to the delivery of our critical services.

Though it is impossible to know when we’ll all be able to work together side by side again, we are looking forward to seeing you all out on site at a home repair project in the future.

Wishing you and your loved ones infinite health and happiness.

Steve Hellner-Burris, CEO

 

May 5th, 2020
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[Re]Builders,
 
Today is GivingTuesday Now!

Together, we can keep our senior neighbors safe. Your donations help people like Kenneth, who recently received emergency plumbing repairs that will help him safely and comfortably shelter in place.


Donate Today!
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Kenneth on his front porch in Homewood.

Read more about his story at rtpittsburgh.org/stories
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April 29th, 2020
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Giving Tuesday usually falls the week after Thanksgiving, but the unprecedented
need caused by COVID-19 has inspired


#GivingTuesdayNow

a global day of unity taking place tomorrow, May 5th.



Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh joins hundreds of other Western Pennsylvania nonprofits in Give Big Pittsburgh’s COVID-19 Response, an effort to assist in raising critical funds to support area nonprofits.

This Giving Tuesday, consider making a contribution to Rebuilding Together through the Give Big Pittsburgh campaign. Your donations will support emergency home repair services that will help our neighbors safely shelter in place.

The support of [Re]Builders has tangible and meaningful effects on the lives of people in our community.

 
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GivingTuesday is a global generosity movement unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world. Learn more about the movement at givingtuesday.org
 
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Visit givebigpittsburgh.com to learn more about the regional fundraising effort and to support countless other area non-profits
 

April 29th, 2020

Hi [Re]Builders!

We hope that you are staying safe and healthy during the Stay at Home order. This hasn’t been an easy time, especially so for seniors and people living with disabilities. Now is when our neighbors need us to do what we do best: safe and healthy home repairs. RTP has been hard at work the past several weeks. We've pivoted our services to quickly respond to our neighbors’ needs by executing emergency home repairs and providing food access for our seniors and their families.


Working Together, we have:
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THANK YOU to all our [Re]Builders who Sprung into Action and donated to support these emergency services!

So far, we have enough to support 3 repair projects. We’d like to be able to respond to all who call our office. YOU can help make that possible.


Please make a donation today.

April 3rd, 2020

To our community of [Re]builders: We’ve got some news.

With permission from City and State Officials, Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh will be proceeding with emergency repair services that will help our neighbors safely shelter in place. Observing strict protocols for hygiene and distancing, we will be deploying minimal field staff and contractors to execute critical roof, plumbing, appliance, and other repairs to resolve conditions that pose an immediate health risk to our homeowners. Additionally, we are supporting our most vulnerable clients through intensive case management to connect them with food, utility, financial, and community resources that will offer them a sense of security through the remainder of the shelter-in-place order.

Though we are unable to accommodate physical volunteerism from our supporters for the foreseeable future, our neighbors still need your help.

 
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Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh so that we can continue to provide these life-sustaining services to our low-income neighbors.

If you have any questions, concerns, or ideas for other ways we can support our neighbors during this time, please reach out to us HERE.

SPRING INTO ACTION: https://www.rtpittsburgh.org/donate-1