Rebuilding Together reaches Oakland homes milestone

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Holly — Rain splattered against the small frame house on Hartner but by the smile on Diane Williams’ face, Wednesday was the sunniest of days for her.

Surrounded by plastic-covered furniture and possessions, Williams sat in her electric cart, watching as a few feet away volunteers tore into the interior of her house, ripping out wood and walls as they remodeled her bathroom.

The group was part of a free program called Rebuilding Together, helping to make improvements to Williams’ home and making it wheelchair accessible.

“I’m so overwhelmed,” the 74-year-old widow said, tearfully. “There are some really wonderful people in this world and you don’t see or hear enough about what they do.”

Oakland County Deputy Executive Philip R. Bertolini noted how Williams is the 1,000th county homeowner assisted by Rebuilding Together Oakland County, a nonprofit group that has brought together nearly 10,000 volunteers to deliver a $7.7 million market value increase to homes across Oakland County.

“This group is really special,” Bertolini said. “We in government want to help people and these volunteers are helping to improve lives every day.”

About 10 volunteers showed up Wednesday and over the next week, about 35 skilled and unskilled workers are scheduled to have chipped in on the job, according to Kirt Rushlow, a board member and owner of Highland Township-based Rushlow & Sons Construction.

A $15,000 grant from Lowe’s was paying for the raw materials, said Rushlow, who has been involved in Rebuilding Together in Michigan and elsewhere for more than 25 years.

When completed, the bathroom remodeling will permit Williams, who is partly paralyzed from a stroke, to use the facility independently.

“See those?” said Rushlow, pointing to a washer and dryer in a narrow hallway off the kitchen. “She can’t get to them now. They’re useless. But we plan to move them into a laundry room where she will have access. If we can get the funding, I would also like to remodel this kitchen. She cannot get to cupboards or the sink the way things are now.”

All revisions will be done to Americans with Disabilities Act standards, he said.

The Rebuilding Together effort is part of a national nonprofit group to improve the lives of low-income residents and veterans. There are more than 200 affiliates nationwide providing similar free rehabilitative and repair services, according to Halie Black, executive director of the Oakland County chapter.

(248) 338-0319

About the program

To qualify for the programapplicants:

■Have to complete an appliction.

■Be Oakland County residents.

■Own and be living in their home.

■Live in a single-family home.

■Qualify as low-income by HUD standards

■Have an up-to-date mortgage and homeowners insurance.

For information about applying for help, or to volunteer services or make donations to Rebuilding Together, go to or call (248) 432-6551.