Denver Bar Association
February 2005
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Down & Dirty — Rebuilding Communities

by Joanna Kitto

Editor’s Note: This article continues the series inspired by DBA President Mary Jo Gross, where guest columnists write about their volunteer/charity involvement.

Attorneys and family members of
McKenna Long Aldridge install
handrails, fix windows and secure
the home of 89-year-old Margaret
Adams.
When I joined my first Denver law firm in 2001, one very sage senior partner, Herb Fenster, suggested I sit on the board of an organization near and dear to his heart, Rebuilding Together Metro Denver, Inc. I followed his advice, and what a rewarding thing Rebuilding Together has become in my life!

Rebuilding Together is a non-profit organization that works in partnership with the community to rehabilitate the houses of low-income homeowners, particularly the elderly and disabled, in the Denver-metro area, so that they may
continue to live in warmth, safety and independence. Yes, it is similar to Habitat for Humanity, but different, because it
works on existing homes, and is a slightly easier commitment for most organizations, since it involves only one day of
volunteering and a smaller monetary commitment of $3,000.

Rebuilding Together provides assistance to people who own their own home but who, because of physical limitations or income, are not able to perform or pay for the costs of home repairs. Volunteers come from all walks of life, including civic groups, small businesses,
corporations, churches and other non-profit agencies. These organizations typically donate
Bonnie, left, an employee and
volunteer from McKenna Long Aldridge,
with homeowner Margaret Adams
$3,000 for supplies and overhead, then send out a crew of 20–50 people on the last Saturday in April to rehabilitate a house, under the supervision of a skilled captain. Other volunteers provide skilled services, supplies, discounts, lunches or dollars to Rebuilding Together. The list of corporations who get involved is quite impressive; those who have been involved for many years include the Denver Broncos Alumni, Kaiser Permanente, Keybank, CARR America, Commercial Federal Bank, the Colorado Roofing Association, and many others.

In 2004, more than 275,000 people volunteered in 850 cities across the nation. More than 8,500 homes and non-profit facilities will be repaired at a value of $90 million. Since the Denver chapter was established in 1999, Rebuilding Together has rehabilitated more than 100 houses for the elderly and
disabled; 30 homes will be repaired on the next Rebuilding Day, April 30.

I have been the secretary of Rebuilding Together and have served as a board member, on various committees, and have performed legal work pro bono since 2001. None of this, however, has been as rewarding as being a "house captain" — rallying the troops at my law firm to show up for the day to pound nails, paint and other such tasks. Being a house captain


also means interfacing with the homeowner, ensuring the crew is fed, purchasing the right amount of supplies, and ensuring that the work on the house is completed in just one day.

Representative
projects:

My first project
in 2001 involved my husband, intellectual property attorney Mike Ambroziak,
building a wheelchair ramp for an eight-year-old boy who was wheelchair bound, while I helped paint his new wheelchair-accessible room and bathroom. Other volunteers enlarged his bathroom to make it wheelchair-accessible, and worked on installing a motorized chair for the family stairs.

In 2002, we worked on 89-year-old Margaret Adams’ home, installing a guardrail to guide her from her front door to the street, enabling her to access rides to places like her church, the doctor’s office and the grocery store.
We also put in safety lights, added a locked screen door, painted her fence and shutters, caulked her concrete patio, and added guardrails to the stairs in her basement.

In 2003, we worked on the mobile home of a gentleman with MS who had lost his home and all other assets to healthcare costs. We installed special appliances, built a far better ADA-compliant wheelchair ramp, reinforced and rebuilt his porch, fixed broken windows, and fixed doors to eliminate drafts.

Each homeowner was teary, grateful and simply amazed by the strangers who came together to work on their homes. Each attorney, staff member, family member and acquaintance who has volunteered on "Rebuilding Together Day" in April has had a wonderful experience.

How you can get involved:

This organization needs all kinds of support to continue its good work, including new house sponsors, volunteers for its committees, and in-kind donations of supplies or services from those in the construction industry. If you, your law firm, your office or your client would like to get involved, please call me at (303) 291-2324, visit http://www.rebuildingdenver.org, or contact Laurie McCaw, executive director, at (720) 524-0828.

Joanna C. Kitto is an attorney at Perkins Coie and can be reached at (303) 291-2324 or jkitto@perkinscoie.com.


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