NJ volunteers with Rebuilding Together repair houses for free

Barbara Albonico loves the house where she grew up in the Cherry Hill section of Elmwood Park, a two bedroom ranch where she enjoys cooking perogies in the kitchen and sitting on the side porch sipping tea and listening to music. music.

Being able to stay in the WWII house means the world to her. She and her husband Harry suffer from disabilities and are no longer able to work. But they got worried when they saw that mold had settled in the walls and the floors had rotted.

On Saturday, a team of nearly 20 volunteers from Rebuilding Together North Jersey, a nonprofit that provides free home repairs to low-income homeowners, stopped by to help. The team removed mildew from the walls, replaced damaged floors with wood-style laminate planks and clipped branches that hung above the roof.

“I could never have done something like this,” said Albonico, 64, a former medical secretary and transcriptionist. “It lights up everything. It is simply amazing the people who give their time and their generosity to do so.

(Left) Paul Galgano and Joe Corcoran repair a floor as Rebuilding Together works to repair a house in Elmwood Park on Saturday, September 25, 2021.

The Elmwood Park house was one of seven sites in North Jersey where around 200 volunteers had deployed during a reprogramming National Reconstruction Day (the event usually takes place in April but has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic). They included teams from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Paramus-based Local 164 and the Greater Bergen Association of Realtors.

Founded in 1998, Rebuilding Together North Jersey raises funds, reviews homeowner claims, inspects properties, purchases materials and plans repairs throughout the year. Their work is possible thanks to sponsors and corporate donations.

National Reconstruction Day is the culmination of this work and a joy for clients and volunteers. On Saturday, the organization also repaired homes in Hackensack, Hasbrouck Heights and Teaneck.

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In Wallington, volunteers included a dozen electrical craftsmen who crammed into a two-story house with unsafe conditions, including spliced ​​and old cables, leaking pipes, damaged floors, and holes that allowed l cold air to flow freely into a front chamber.

From the basement to the upstairs rental unit, they worked to replace outlets, switches, and light fixtures in the 1920 home. They replaced broken sinks and a side door with a rotten wood frame. The work lasted three days.

Dora Velazquez, who came from Colombia in 1978, realized her dream of owning a home when she bought the place on Sussex Road in 2008. She enjoys house painting and gardening and has said she hates standing still , but she was sidelined by surgery for three herniated discs which still impact her mobility.

Dora Velazquez stands outside her home as John Park and Brad Haspel, left, repair part of the Wallington home on Saturday, September 25, 2021.

A grandmother of two, she lives in the house alone and said she was not told about the significant issues when she bought it, she said.

“I believe God sent an army of angels to come and help me,” Velazquez, 67, said in Spanish, as she watched the sea of ​​volunteers working on the property.

One of the “angels” was Jason Duddie, a Saddle Brook electrician who has helped out in about 15 homes over the past 12 years.

“The look on people’s faces when you help them, to see them happy and how much they appreciate it – that’s a good feeling,” said Duddie, as he removed an illegal splice along a wall. basement.

The goal, the team said, was to keep Velazquez warm, safe and dry.

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In Wood-Ridge, another team focused on adding ramps and repairing the walkway to make a house livable and accessible to elderly homeowners, Umar and Tes Kahn. The two have difficulty walking, and Uman recently suffered a stroke.

In front, volunteers replaced stones to make the walkway level and safe, while on the side, they cleared a path for a ramp. Jack Koumbis, of River Vale, worked to replace a door so that it would open and lead to the ramp. A chef turned realtor, Koumbis said the time flies and the workload is lighter because so many people are ready to help.

“We live here. We care,” he said.

(Left to right) Grace Choi Happy, Bonnie Borghi and Juan Carlos Baltodano repair a walkway as Rebuilding Together works to repair a house in Wood-Ridge on Saturday, September 25, 2021.

The owners’ son, Frank Khan, said they searched for a house with no stairs, but with the housing market booming, it was out of reach. He returned to live with his parents this year to help them out, and a real estate agent suggested they request home repairs through Rebuilding Together.

“Building a ramp was so important,” Khan said. “Getting them up and down the stairs was always a scary thing.”

Her father was due home from the hospital on Sunday, weeks after his stroke, and a day after repairs were completed.

Tes, short for Tehseen, wrote a letter his son shared with the volunteers on Saturday thanking them.

“You are wonderful people,” she wrote. “Appreciate from the bottom of my heart what you are doing to make our lives easy and comfortable. Now bless you and reward you. Good deeds to help disabled and elderly people like us.

Hannan Adely is a diversity reporter covering Arab and Muslim communities for NorthJersey.com, where she focuses on social issues, politics, prejudice and civil rights. To get unlimited access to the latest news, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: @adelyreporter

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