Dig Baton Rouge

Josh Does Stuff: Rebuilding homes

 From Merriam-Webster to Urban Dictionary, there are multiple definitions of what it means to be a ‘do-gooder.’ For me, it’s more of a responsibility all humans have to give back to their community. This month, I had a great opportunity to do some good, with a good organization for someone who has done good things.

(WARNING: If you couldn’t tell already, the word ‘good’ might be used profusely throughout this writing. If you have a strong aversion to it, please keep reading, but insert your favorite positive word. Also, for the sake of this particular rhetoric, ‘good’ might be used in place of where ‘well’ should technically go. Thanks for understanding. We will now return to the narrative already in progress.)

I had the opportunity to work with Rebuilding Together Baton Rouge (RTBR), a non-profit organization focused on home revitalization, to help bring one of its homeowners closer to the returning home. RTBR has been executing its mission to rebuild communities one home at a time, since 2004. Traditionally, its primary focus area has been to assist folks in aging-in-place, on a very small scale. Most of its projects centered around building ramps and installing handrails. Following last year’s flooding, the organization has matured quickly, and now handles matters much larger than the simple weekend project. From mucking and gutting to painting, RTBR has now been involved in the rebuilding process of nearly 70 homes.

For my venture into doing some good, I joined Rebuilding Together in helping one of its clients, a flood victim, get back on their feet. The organization’s labor is centered around its volunteers, both skilled and unskilled. This means the group is used to guiding someone like me—a person who has limited construction skills—into being a helpful participant.

When I arrived I was met by Katie, one of RTBR’s project managers. Katie asked questions to assess my skill level (probably the quickest interview I’ve ever had), while showing me around the large house we’d be working on for the day. After surveying the house and meeting the rest of the RTBR crew Katie assigned me to the kitchen, not to bake or cook, but to paint. Painting is a deceptive task because it appears rather simple. But, when you’re painting a room—especially one for someone else—it’s not by numbers, yet channeling Bob Ross is completely unnecessary. You have to be somewhere in between. With that said, I took the roller and attacked the wall  with white paint, moving in a W pattern (Yep, I sound like a pro, right?). I got the thumbs up from Katie and covered the entire room fairly simply. From there, she let me nail some planks into the wall to finish building out the cabinet and I helped carry supplies in and out of the house.

The best part of the day was knowing that I was helping the homeowner return home and get back to normal. She wasn’t home very long for me to interview her because she was also out doing some good. This incredible woman is a retired teacher from the local school system who now mentors and volunteers young ladies.

When you put it all together, this experience was a domino effect of goodness. I was able to do good by volunteering with RTBR. Rebuilding Together’s crew was doing good by helping this homeowner, someone who has spent years doing good in our community, return home. While she, this amazing teacher, was out continuing to invest goodness into the lives of young ladies. It was the gift of goodness that keeps on giving.

If you want to participate in doing your own good, consider Rebuilding Together Baton Rouge. You can find out more information on how to volunteer at RTBR.org. If they could use me, they can assuredly use you.


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