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North Dakota homes of those in need to be upgraded

June 9, 2018

MANDAN, N.D. (AP) — A Mandan home is one of seven local residences to receive a face-lift from a nonprofit organization that provides assistance, in the form of free house repairs and modifications, to homeowners with physical or income limitations.

Since its inception in 1997, Rebuilding Together Greater Bismarck/Mandan Area has enlisted thousands of volunteers to repair more than 160 homes, completing the work each spring, The Bismarck Tribune reported.

“Many people volunteer their time and talents to help these low-income homeowners, particularly the elderly and disabled, live in warmth, safety and independence,” said Julie Jeske, a member of the Rebuilding Together Greater Bismarck/Mandan Area Board, adding that homeowners who are military veterans are also given consideration.

The nationwide movement began in Midland, Texas, in 1973, when a small group of people realized a growing need in the community: Homes had fallen into disrepair and owners could not afford to fix them on their own, prompting neighbors to help neighbors.

The houses to be rehabilitated are selected by the Rebuilding Together board, based on information homeowners provide on their applications.

Individuals must meet the established low-income guidelines, own or live in a home within a 10-mile radius of Bismarck-Mandan, be unable to complete the repairs without assistance, possess home insurance and owe no back taxes. Additional consideration is given when someone living in the home is elderly or has a disability.

“We try to reach out to as many people as possible who would qualify for the process,” said Janice Paulson, a Rebuilding Together team co-captain who works as a cashier and vice president of finance at Starion Bank.

The organization contacts social service agencies, churches and retirement homes to help locate homeowners who qualify, she said.

Each house has a corporate sponsor, and local businesses often donate labor and building supplies to the project, with most of the work being completed by individual volunteers.

On May 5, Paulson and nearly 30 volunteers gathered at the home of James and Ellen Jefferson, of Mandan. The task at hand was to completely remodel the home’s bathroom, update the kitchen and replace a deteriorating porch, among other projects.

“Anything that is going to be a hazard to the homeowners is our first priority,” said Paulson. “If we have the funds and means, we’ll take care of other needs just to make the home better for them.”

Numerous businesses donated materials and labor to remodel the house, which was sponsored by Starion Bank and the United Way.

“It was amazing. All the businesses I contacted . God just looked down on me and nobody said ‘no,’” Paulson said.

Skilled labor was required for the extensive bathroom remodel. Bergquist Bros., Priority Plumbing, Gross Electric, Advanced Mechanical and Ferguson donated materials and labor to complete the project.

“They went in there and totally did the bathroom for us,” Paulson said.

A shower was installed in place of the bathtub, which Ellen Jefferson said was a blessing, as her husband has a bad back, making getting in and out of the tub difficult.

The kitchen needed to be taped, textured and painted and a new floor installed.

“We needed to lay flooring in the kitchen because it was all torn up and not safe,” Paulson said.

The taping and texturing was completed without charge by Brian Nieuwenhuis. House of Color donated the paint and Imperial Flooring provided the vinyl flooring.

“The new flooring in the kitchen feels a lot better,” Ellen Jefferson said.

Volunteers spent many hours painting the interior of the house, including the kitchen, dining room and living room, and the exterior trim.

Front Street Millwork & Lumber donated funds to purchase supplies for a new deck to replace the deteriorating front porch.

“It was very soft and the hazard was someone could step right through it. Not immediately, but it was getting to that point,” Paulson said.

The Jeffersons are enjoying their new deck, as well as a new screen door on the home’s back door.

“That patio was about to fall apart. Now it’s all wood, instead of cement, and a lot easier to go up and down,” Ellen Jefferson said. “It’s nice to be able to open the back door again, because when the front and back door are both open, a nice breeze comes through.”

The team, made up primarily of individuals employed by Starion Bank and USDA Wildlife Services, as well as members of Prairie Heights Church, worked from 8:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. May 5, putting in additional hours the weeks before and after the project day.

“Other than being time consuming, this project, overall, really went according to plan,” Paulson said. “I had the best help.”

Ellen Jefferson agrees, noting the volunteers “never bickered with each other and got along great.”

“No one wanted to stand around; everyone wanted to keep busy,” she said. “We would do anything to pay them back and thank them for doing this for us. It’s awesome.”

Paulson said the Jeffersons were wonderful people to work with. “I could make a suggestion and they would look at me and say, ‘If you’re doing it, it’s going to be great,’” she said. “They made the whole experience so enjoyable.

“If you can better somebody’s life, that’s what we’re put on this Earth to do . to help each other and spread the love that we have,” Paulson said. “That’s what God wants us to do.”

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com

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