On Saturday, April 28, 2018, volunteers from Bates College and Rebuilding Together L/A gathered together at 7 in the morning to drink coffee and eat donuts to fuel for the long day ahead of them. Rebuilding Together L/A is a non-profit that repairs homes of the needy and elderly in the Lewiston/Auburn community at no expense to the homeowners.
After volunteers had their fill of Dunkin Donuts, Alan Hahnel, the Treasurer of Rebuilding Together L/A, gave the nonprofit’s mission statement, talked about the stories of the residents whose homes were to be repaired that day, and then organized the volunteers into groups.
He began by stating, “There are a lot of retired and elderly people that are on fixed income and they’ve lived in their homes for forty years…These people just don’t want to leave, they don’t want to sell their homes, and they have some life safety issues that need to be addressed and we volunteers are going to do that. We’ve had the donations of material, and we’re going to use all the donations of all your labor to affect the changes to allow these people to stay in their homes.”
The program in Lewiston was started by Batesie, John Scott Johnson ‘04. “14 years ago, John Scott Johnson, out of Washington D.C., initiated this program. It was an offshoot of his mother’s (Patty Johnson’s) in D.C. and it’s really a great organization that helps some elderly and needy people to stay in their homes with dignity.”
This year, Rebuilding Together L/A set out to repair three homes in the community. One project was designated to the Bates Football team to reroof the home of Matilda, an 88 year-old woman who lives with her son, who is on the spectrum. “She stands about that feet tall, a wonderful little lady, but her roof has gone to hell and we’re going to put a new one on,” humored Hahnel.
The next project was at Moreau Avenue in Lewiston. According to Hahnel, “Pauline Fournier is a widow, she also is in her 80’s. She’s lived in this house for thirty or forty years. She lives on a slope of a hill, and the water is going down and now infiltrating her basement—basement water means mold, mold means disease, so you are going to dig a trench in the mud, put drain tile in and gravel or crushed rock to allow the water to drain and not go into her basement.” Volunteers worked under the guidance of sisters Alina Burke, Linda Churchill, and Shanna Bruno, the Vice President of College Advancement at Bates.
The last project was ripping down an unsafe shed on Broad Street.
At the Moreau Avenue site, The Bates Student had the chance to meet Betsy Ladd ‘85, the daughter of Helen and George Ladd, whom the Bates Ladd Library is named after. During her time at Bates, Ladd was a History Major and then continued to working in software engineering. She now works to help community members to earn their GED’s.
Ladd has volunteered nearly every year with Rebuilding Together L/A since its founding in 2004, “I do it because I get to help people, but I also get to meet the Bates students and you know, hear what their lives are like today” said Ladd. When asked about her time at Bates, Ladd reflected, “It was a great time. We had a really great class, and I enjoyed my time at Bates a lot.”
Shanna Bruno was also working at the site, helping to dig the trench. She has volunteers each year and works on the board of Rebuilding Together L/A. According to Bruno, her favorite part of volunteering with the nonprofit is, “Just the feeling of helping people is really a terrific thing and just seeing the comradery between everybody and the fact that so many Bates kids and faculty and staff pitch in–it’s just great.”