GREEN: Betty Hodges sat on her sofa, hands gripping a mug. It was about the only place she could be in her 1920s colonial home where she could take in what was happening and still keep out of the way.
People with paint rollers were covering the walls of her living room. A glance off her left shoulder would have revealed others installing new cabinets in her kitchen.
Through the open back door, the sounds of a table saw indicated another crew was building a small deck.
“It’s hard to believe,” said Hodges, who will turn 86 next month. “It’s overwhelming.”
The nearly 40 volunteers were all City of Green employees — from secretaries to firefighters to department heads to council members — who gave up their Saturday to make long-needed repairs to the Greensburg Road house where she and her late husband, Robert, raised four children.
It was one of eight homes in the Akron area targeted by the Greater Cuyahoga Valley affiliate of Rebuilding Together.
The national nonprofit and its chapters work throughout the year to revitalize neighborhoods by helping low-income residents fix up their homes. But one day a year on “National Rebuilding Day,” they attempt one-day makeovers for a lucky few.
“It really captures that community barn-raising experience,” said Paul Holm, executive director of the local affiliate, which works with homeowners in Summit, Medina, Stark, Portage and Cuyahoga counties. “It’s about goodwill and teamwork and people coming together for the common good.”
In Green, the city has been contributing $30,000 a year to Rebuilding Together since 2006 — money that may go toward a new roof that helps an elderly resident keep a house, or grab bars and ramps that make a house safer for a disabled homeowner.
Those projects are bid out to contractors and handled professionally throughout the year.
But this is the first time city employees sponsored the National Rebuilding Day project, which has generally been done by volunteers from sponsoring churches, businesses or civic groups.
“We can do this. We can so do this,” Sarah Haring, the city’s community development administrator, said she thought when the city considered whether to take on the project.
Volunteers also landscaped Hodges home, installed ceiling fans, and gave her a new bathroom.
Green Valley United Methodist Church members arrived earlier to replace broken plaster walls with new drywall, and Lowe’s Home Improvement Stores provided discounts on supplies to help the project meet a $7,500 budget.
Outside, on-duty firefighter-paramedics Matt Craddock, Steve Frick and Tom Wiles kept busy raking leaves and pulling weeds.
They responded to a call from a mid-morning traffic accident, then returned 45 minutes later to pick up their rakes again.
“It beats being at the firehouse,” Frick chuckled, then added that had it been his day off, he would still have volunteered. Craddock and Wiles nodded in agreement.
City Service Director Randy Monteith, holding onto a deck post, said in some ways, Saturday’s job was just an extension of what city employees do anyway.
“That’s who we are. We’re here to serve the public,” he said.
Ward 3 Councilman Ken Knodel shoveled mulch into a wheelbarrow, talking about the good Rebuilding Together does year round.
“It’s fantastic. It really does a lot to help people stay in their homes,” he said.
Meanwhile, back inside, Hodges was looking forward to seeing the home of her memories restored.
She and her husband moved into the house in 1962. After her husband died in 2001 and she suffered a back injury that limited what she could do, her house fell into disrepair.
When her son suggested she apply for Rebuilding Together, she waited until the last minute. Only then, after one final nudging from her son, did she meet the deadline.
“It was almost the last day,” she said. “I didn’t think I had the chance.”
Paula Schleis can be reached at 330-996-3741 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/paulaschleis.