Midtown Raleigh News

After a year under a tarp, Raleigh man’s house refurbished by volunteers

John Snipes never thought to ask for help, even after two trees fell on his house and punctured holes in his roof during last year’s tornado.

For the past 11 months, the Navy veteran lived with just a tarp keeping the rain out of his kitchen. His home also lacked insulation, heating or air conditioning, but that’s the way it has been since Snipes’ parents moved in during the 1970s.

“I’m not a complainer,” said Snipes, 71.

Since the start of March, an army of volunteers has worked on the little yellow house on Pender Street to fix those problems and more. Nonprofit home rehabilitation group Rebuilding Together of the Triangle heard about Snipes’ tornado damage through the St. Augustine’s College Community Development Corporation, where Snipes is a volunteer.

“Your home is where everything starts from,” said Vince DeFreitas, chairman of the board of Rebuilding Together of the Triangle. “When people have a warm, safe, clean environment, that extends to the rest of their lives and to the community.”

Rebuilding Together of the Triangle is the local chapter of the national Rebuilding Together organization that uses donations and volunteers from both national corporations and local businesses to perform major home repairs for low-income homeowners. The Triangle’s branch covers Wake, Orange, Durham and Chatham counties.

With a $30,000 Heroes at Home grant from Sears, Snipes’ house has been transformed this month by a fresh coat of yellow paint and a lot of upgrades and repairs.

First, experts came in to replace the roof, remove the old asbestos siding and install new windows, a heating and air system, and insulation. The rest of the month has been a whirlwind of contractors and other community volunteers pitching in to complete the repairs and freshen the exterior.

Last Friday, the volunteers manning the paintbrushes and scaling ladders were from the Raleigh office of Associa HRW Inc., a homeowners’ association management firm.

“We work with so many homeowners, we wanted to help,” volunteer Cathy Wade said.

Though the original grant for Snipes’ house was for $30,000, Rebuilding Together was able to accomplish $40,000 worth of work for just $15,000, thanks to volunteer time and donations.

The group has grown fast during the past several years. They completed 15 projects in 2009, 24 last year and hope to top 30 houses fixed in 2012.

As for Snipes, he’s grateful for the help and plans to pay it forward: He hopes to become a Rebuilding Together volunteer himself when the project is over.