Saturday, April 30, 2011 | 8:42 p.m.
Twenty homes in Las Vegas and Henderson were renovated and repaired Saturday, as hundreds of volunteers gathered to participate in National Rebuilding Day.
The annual event takes place on the last Saturday in April. Thousands of volunteers and corporate sponsors unite to rehabilitate homes and community facilities in low-income neighborhoods.
What began as an effort called Christmas in April has transformed into a national organization known as Rebuilding Together. The nonprofit organization has more than 200 affiliates across the U.S. and has been operating for more than 35 years, hosting the national event.
This is Southern Nevada’s 18th year participating.
Among the organizations taking part Saturday were UNLV, the Southern Nevada Health District and St. Rose Dominican Hospitals.
The program provides everything from yard cleanup and painting to skilled repairs of plumbing, windows, electrical systems, roofs and flooring for low-income, seniors and disabled people.
Philippe Makhlouf, 73, was one of the beneficiaries of Saturday’s effort.
“They make you feel important and good and thankful that I got them to my house for them to help me. It’s unbelievable. It’s so wonderful,” said Makhlouf. “Suddenly when I needed help the most, they come to my home. I feel very lucky and blessed that Jesus is looking after me like this.”
Makhlouf’s home was one of three that St. Rose Dominican Hospitals adopted to renovate. Prior to Saturday, volunteers had been working on the home for weeks.
They fixed a problem with the hot water supply and installed new appliances, cabinets, flooring, furniture, hardware and sinks. They also painted and landscaped.
Makhlouf’s daughter, Monique Makhlouf, 24, said she didn’t believe at first her father had been chosen to have his house renovated.
“I thought it was a scam. I was like, there’s no way, this doesn’t happen to real people,” she said.
Given a budget of just $1,500 from Rebuilding Together, almost all the work and materials were a result of donations from individuals and businesses.
“Rebuilding Together gave us $1,500 to do what we could do. Fifteen-hundred dollars, I’ll be very honest with you, I was able to spend that so quick at Lowe’s, I had $20 to spare,” volunteer Pam Byleckie said.
“We removed his furniture, because it was filled with cigarette burns. It was so unhealthy for him, so we got rid of all that. He couldn’t use his toilet. When he would put a light switch on, the rest of the lights would burn out. He had no running water. He had a slab leak,” she said. “The only thing that he had honestly working was his refrigerator.”
Makhlouf’s house was one of the biggest projects Rebuilding Together tackled on Saturday.
“We’ve had at least 40 volunteers working on the house just today, but I’ve had about eight contractors coming in here for a little over 30 days,” said David Taylor, who has been involved with Rebuilding Together for 11 years.
“It’s easy to ask for this volunteer and donation request, because they love to come and do it. It’s the opportunity to give back to the community, and this is what we enjoy the best,” he said.
While St. Rose Dominican Hospitals fixed up three properties in Henderson and Las Vegas, Nevada Healthy Homes Partnership, a collaboration between UNLV, the Southern Nevada Health District, and more than a dozen community partners renovated a home in North Las Vegas.
Their efforts focused on identifying and eliminating health issues, including mold, insects, dust and poisoning hazards.
“One of the beauties of the program is it’s actually a team-building experience, so the sponsoring team will take on the home and then they’ll bring out the volunteers from their company or their organization, and they’ll all work on the homes together on that day,” said Therese Elliott, director of programs for Rebuilding Together in Southern Nevada.
“There’s no CEO, there’s no housekeeping. It’s everybody on the same playing field doing good for that homeowner and for that community. It’s really fabulous,” Elliott said.
Outside of the annual rehab blitz, Rebuilding Together makes home repairs year-round. Throughout the year, about 600 homes will undergo emergency repairs in Southern Nevada.
For more information on Rebuilding Together or to apply for housing repairs, visit Rtsnv.org.