As Dan Kaminski, President of Rebuilding Together LaPorte County, placed identifying yard signs in advance of this year’s Rebuilding Together La Porte Build Day, he had a particularly memorable encounter with one homeowner.
“The lady came out and literally was in tears, she was so happy about us helping her,” said Kaminski. “It’s just a nice experience.”
Kaminski was one of about 75 people who gathered at the Bethany Lutheran Church in La Porte on Saturday morning for a hearty breakfast before heading out to their appointed work sites.
Rebuilding Together La Porte’s Build Day brings together volunteers from local trade unions, businesses, and the community at large to help low-income homeowners fix up their homes.
“It’s just a lot of fun to be with these people,” Kaminski said. “I happen to not have any skills in construction, so I learn a lot from doing this.”
This is the fifth year Rebuilding Together has gathered teams to work in La Porte County. Between efforts in La Porte and Michigan City, the group has worked on about 50 houses.
Each home has its own unique set of needs from accessibility improvements, painting and clean up, to electrical repairs and updates. Despite being limited to a single day’s work, crews are able to get a surprising amount accomplished, according to Rebuilding Together of La Porte County board member, Lynn Shukitis.
Shukitis did a lot of the project planning for today’s event such as working with homeowners to determine where teams can best apply their efforts.
“I love build day,” she said. “There’s a lot of work leading up to it, and you’re tired by the time you get here, but on build day it’s like this whole new energy that you get. Your homeowners and workers are happy, and you see the difference that it makes in the community.”
Della Lyle, Community Outreach and Sustainability Representative at American Licorice, was one of the day’s house coordinators. She helped organize lumber deliveries and recruited volunteers to complete a new wheelchair ramp and deck repairs for her site.
This was Lyle’s first year participating in the event, and she looked forward to the day’s work.
“It makes me really happy that we have people like [the board members of Rebuilding Together La Porte County] in the area, and I’m glad to have met them and to be a part of it,” she said.
In contrast, Jim Clarida has been volunteering with Rebuilding Together efforts on and off for about 20 years. He and his team of electricians from IBEW Local 531 were on hand to help update and repair sockets and complete other small electrical projects.
Clarida was there today representing one of the events sponsors, Powering America, a joint effort between unions like the Local 531 and the National Electrical Contractors Association.
“I think this is a great thing,” Clarida said. “I feel like we all have a little bit of an obligation to give back to the communities that we serve.”