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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Aug. 29, 2014

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Rebuilding Together Greater Milwaukee enters its 13th year, expecting biggest year yet

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Rebuilding Together Greater Milwaukee (RTGM) is a private nonprofit organization whose mission is to preserve and revitalize homes and communities, assuring that very low-income elderly homeowners and disabled homeowners, as well as families with children, live in warmth, safety and independence. Rebuilding Together Greater Milwaukee is organized and operated for the purpose helping Milwaukee senior's age with dignity and peace, in their own homes, by providing free repairs to low income homeowners who are seniors, have disabilities, and/or are veterans residing in Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties.

Rebuilding Together began with a single Rebuilding Day each year. This 1-day event in May throughout Milwaukee and Waukesha neighborhoods fills the area with lasting smiles. It consists of about 800 volunteers and corporate partners coming together to rehab 12-18 homes. The day is overwhelming for both the volunteers and the homeowners due to the amazing accomplishments that are made.

"I am overwhelmed. It is unbelievable that Rebuilding Together can get all these wonderful people together to do all these jobs in my home from dusting, cleaning, and painting walls. I have a new dryer, a new toilet. They even did my windows and my lawn. The people are fantastic, whether they're volunteers, sponsors, or actual employees of Rebuilding Together. I thank everybody from the bottom of my heart"- Elaine, homeowner.

In addition to the single Rebuilding Day, RTGM has grown into a year-round repair program to address emergency repairs, accessibility modifications and essential repairs. We are the only organization to offer free professional-quality repairs and modifications. In 2012, they were able to rehab 204 homes and serve 371 people. They have been growing year after year, and are expecting 2013 to be the biggest year yet. RTGM is constantly looking for new ways to make living conditions safer and to enable independence for the elderly and citizens with disabilities.

"The ramp has enabled me to get back into life, it allows me freedom, and I am no longer house bound, dependent on others to just go outside. I can never thank you enough"-Marie, homeowner.

To qualify for RTGM's services you must be:
1.A homeowner of a single family home or jointly owned duplex home where both owners live and qualify in Milwaukee or Waukesha County.
2.Current on your property taxes or property tax installment payment plan.
3.60 years of age or older and low-income OR a person living with a disability and low-income.
-RTGM does not repair roofs or foundations.

It cannot be stressed enough just how critical these home repairs and modifications can be. Milwaukee's senior population has increased over 40% in the last few years and continues to grow each year. Unfortunately, falling is the leading cause of accidental death among Wisconsinites 65 or older. 20% of people admitted to nursing homes had a fall 30 days prior to admission. Nearly two-thirds of people 65 or older, admitted to a hospital because of a fall, are discharged afterward to nursing homes. The installation of accessibility modifications such as grab bars, handrails and non-skid tape go a long way to keeping homeowners safe and independent in their homes and allow them to age in place.

The help of volunteers, donors, Rebuilding Together employees, and the cooperation of the homeowners are what makes these improvements possible. Any sort of help, from volunteering to repair the homes, making a donation, or simply spreading the word about the organization could be extremely beneficial to the future of the Milwaukee community. Visit our website, http://www.rtmilwaukee.org, to learn more about Rebuilding Together Greater Milwaukee, and to discover how you can make a difference.

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