Las Vegas Sun

November 15, 2018

Currently: 50° — Complete forecast

No one else does this for seniors’: Las Vegas couple grateful for home repairs


Wade Vandervort

Jason Matthes, project manager at Rebuilding Together Southern Nevada, shows a ramp he installed to help Norma and Frank McDuffie access their home, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018.

Rebuilding Together Southern Nevada

Norma McDuffie, 88, and her husband Frank McDuffie, 85, pose for a photo in their home, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018. The McDuffie's were selected by Rebuilding Together of Southern Nevada as part of a program which improves the safety and health standards of homes owned by low-income families. Launch slideshow »

Norma and Frank McDuffie, both in their 80s, were married on Valentine’s Day nearly 50 years ago. They raised three sons and a daughter together. When they were younger, Norma sang while Frank played the horns. Sometimes, he played the trombone, other times, it was a gold-plated saxophone he bought at a “hock shop for $40 at a time.”

In 2002, about six years before the Las Vegas housing market collapsed, the McDuffies brought their pale-pink stucco one-story home in the northwest valley, and they weathered the housing market crash better than most of their neighbors. Nevada led the nation in foreclosures for 62 months from 2007 to 2012. While the housing market has rebounded, some areas have recovered more slowly.

That’s where Rebuilding Together has been able to assist. The national nonprofit group helps low-income seniors like the McDuffies, veterans and families with active-duty service members with housing issues like broken air conditioning units or holes in the roof. The group, with 142 affiliates in 142 cities, makes repairs at no cost to the homeowner.

Rebuilding Together’s ambition is to stabilize neighborhoods with high rates of foreclosure, abandoned properties and vacant homes through their services by working with social services, housing providers and counseling agencies to keep homes affordable and safe to live in.

“No one else does this for seniors,” said Bob Cleveland, the executive director of Rebuilding Together Southern Nevada. “Anything that has to do with safe and healthy homes we provide at no cost to the client.”

A series of family deaths and health problems interfered with the McDuffies' efforts to maintain their home. And on a sweltering Las Vegas summer day, the problem got worse: The couple realized someone had stolen critical parts of their air conditioning unit, rendering it useless.

Rebuilding Together installed a new unit for about $7,000 as part of $15,000 in improvements to the property. They also replaced a broken window in the living room, installed threshold ramps to the backyard, installed two handicap-accessible toilets, and made sure smoke detectors worked and a fire extinguisher was up to code. In April, they’ll start upgrades to the landscaping.

“They were very kind, very respectful,” Norma said. “That was a blessing.”

Rebuilding Together Southern Nevada helps 200 to 500 homeowners annually with funding from Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson. Additionally, many businesses will sponsor a project, such as Wells Fargo picking up the tab for the McDuffie home. That donation was made during the group’s National Rebuilding Day, a major fundraising event annually on the last Saturday in April.

Cleveland said the organization has identified 20 homes in the Las Vegas area for improvements to be done Saturday. Since the group launched the local chapter in 1994, it has rehabilitated 7,500 area homes.

Rebuilding Together Southern Nevada is looking for volunteers to help with non-essential services that help maintain property values, like landscaping or painting. To learn more about how to help, call 702-259-4900 or email [email protected]