Rebuilding Together team does just that for local homeowner
With tears in her eyes, she stood in her demolished kitchen Friday, feeling thankful and blessed.
Volunteers had ripped out the kitchen earlier in the day to prepare for a massive project at Lori Waldman-Szmagaj’s Farmington Hills home as part of the 19th annual National Rebuild Day. More volunteers, about 50 in all, were expected to converge on the home all day Saturday to remodel the kitchen, replace flooring, paint walls, rake the yard and do some landscaping.
“It’s overwhelming,” said Waldman-Szmagaj, 41, a single mother of two daughters, ages 14 and 16. “I haven’t been able to keep up with any of this on my own.”
Waldman-Szmagaj has a physical disability called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, a nervous system disorder that leaves her in pain most of the time. The condition, which progressively worsens, was brought on following a car accident in 1994. She hasn’t been able to work since 1996 when she was placed on permanent disability from the medical field.
Since then, she’s been resourceful in seeking assistance by way of programs, food stamps and the city of Farmington Hills community development program. She even realized she can get free Internet service through the Farmington Community Library.
“I find programs all the time to help me,” said Waldman-Szmagaj, whose sole income source is Social Security disability payments. “I need wonderful people like these guys. It’s so wonderful because I’m so blessed with all of this stuff. I’m in pain — and so many people are willing to come in and lend a hand and do whatever they can.”
The Rebuilding Together team working this weekend at her home is from Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in Farmington. The group is about 60 percent youth and 40 percent adults, said Tim Nixon, a volunteer and co-site manager. A total of 85 volunteers from the Farmington church worked on Waldman-Szmagaj’s home and another home in the 10 Mile and Power Road area.
This is the third year the Sorrows group has volunteered for the Rebuilding Together program. There are 15 local churches doing the same thing this weekend in Farmington, Farmington Hills and Southfield, said Bob McAllister, of Farmington, who is co-site manager with Nixon.
“We try to promote it as a good, Christian service and for our kids to know they need to give something back to people in need,” said McAllister, whose wife Jeanne and daughters Kirsten, 17, and Megan, 14, are pitching in. “We’re trying to keep it as a youth group-sponsored program. For the adults, we’re leading kids to learn and also we’re doing a good service as well.”
Waldman-Szmagaj was selected by Rebuilding Together and matched up with the Sorrows volunteers. McAllister said their group has people who have construction skills. The program allotted $1,500 per house and the group gathered donations of supplies and even carpet, kitchen flooring and a dishwasher.
Waldman-Szmagaj was connected with Rebuilding Together by the city of Farmington Hills, which also arranged for her to get a new furnace, new windows and new siding on her 50-year-old home through a low-interest loan program.
She said “there is no way” she could have afforded to fix up her home — a home she moved into 14 years ago.
“My kids deserve a house,” she said. “I never had a steady house until I was 12 years old. I moved into this house and I said, ‘This is my house and I’m not going to move.’”
For more information about the Rebuilding Together program, visit www.rebuildingtogether.org or call (800) REBHAB-9.
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