By Princess Safiya Byers Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service Published Jun 10, 2023 at 3:01 PM

A letter in the mail changed Joy Moore’s life. 

After living in her Lindsay Heights home for 22 years, she received a note from Revitalize Milwaukee inviting her to be a part of the nonprofit organization’s annual “block build.”

Her home, and many others in 2022, was repaired at no cost to the residents in August as part of the effort.

“They fixed leaks I’d had for years, gave me new security gates and made it safe for me to go out to my garden,” Moore said. “I’ve been here 23 years, and I plan to be here for the rest of my life, and they made it possible for me to do that.” 

Serving homeowners

Completing repairs people cannot otherwise do is the point of Revitalize Milwaukee. 

The “block build,” which usually takes place over a weekend and repairs every eligible home on a block, is only one of the group’s many programs that help Milwaukeeans stay safe in their homes. 

Revitalize Milwaukee is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to reduce social, economic and environmental disparities by providing free home repairs throughout Milwaukee and Waukesha counties.

According to Lynnea Katz-Petted, the CEO, the organization is the largest provider of home repairs to homeowners in Southeast Wisconsin and the only one that provides them for free. 

This year alone, she said, Revitalize Milwaukee has serviced 126 homes. 

A focus on older residents

Most of its programs serve residents who have lived in their homes for at least five years and who are age 60 or older, have a disability or live with a person who has a disability or who is a veteran. 

Revitalize Milwaukee does everything from providing ramps for people in wheelchairs to fixing doors broken in domestic disputes. 

“We do a lot of what I call ‘comprehensive referrals,’” Katz-Petted said. “So, if we do home repair, for example, and we find out there’s a food issue, we ask questions so we can try to figure out how we get them resources for food. It’s the same with all other resources as well because people don’t know what they don’t know.” 

Emergency assistance

Revitalize Milwaukee is best known for its emergency repair program, which provides repairs for urgent or life-threatening plumbing problems, furnace issues or electrical problems within 48 hours. 

Moore said that after all the repairs were done to her home, she realized her water heater had been acting up, so she called Revitalize to come back. It did the day after. 

“Turns out my water heater had been burning, and I didn’t even know it,” Moore said. “The guy that came out said it was a tragedy waiting to happen. They saved my life.”

The nonprofit provides about 10 other services, which include chore service for homeowners who can no longer mow, rake or shovel themselves and assessments meant to ensure repairs are as effective as possible. 

“You can’t really determine what a homeowner needs in terms of resources to prevent them from falling (while) on the phone,” Katz-Petted said.

"Being a decent neighbor"

Wisconsin has the nation’s highest rate for deadly falls among the elderly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1,635 residents ages 65 or older died from falls in 2021, giving the state a rate more than double the national average. 

Katz-Petted says those statistics are why there is more work to be done in this field. 

“We clearly need more people doing this work,” she said. “It starts with just being a decent neighbor.” 

Catch up with the people and organizations who make Milwaukee great by reading “NNS Spotlight.”

For more information

Revitalize Milwaukee advises homeowners in need to give it a call or check program eligibility on its website. To apply to any of the group’s programs you can apply on the website or call (414) 312-7531.

Contractors interested in working with Revitalize Milwaukee can contact Allison Sweere at