Dutchess County volunteers hammer home a message of caring

Janice Pagan, a Korean War veteran’s widow, has lived in her Red Hook home for 50 years and couldn’t afford to do much-needed repairs. With the help of her neighbors, Brett and Jennifer Brandes, she was able to apply to the Heroes at Home program, a partnership with Rebuilding Together Dutchess County and Sears.

On April 26, a swarm of Rebuilding Together volunteers worked on nine projects in seven Dutchess County municipalities, including Pagan’s home on Columbia Avenue in Red Hook.

“The Heroes at Home collaboration is for veterans and veterans’ families,” said Rebuilding Together DC Executive Director Christina Boryk. “We have accomplished over 40 projects so far.”

Volunteers sponsored by TD Bank were working hard on Pagan’s home, repairing the rear walkway with all new concrete slabs, replacing the gutters, weatherizing the kitchen window and the vent over the stove, which let cold air into the house.

“I’ve lived here for 50 years and it’s been getting a little drafty,” Pagan said, marveling at the swirl of activity going on around her.

One of the volunteers, Rob Torre, a state police investigator at the Rhinebeck barracks, explained the other things he’d been helping with. “We’re re-doing her bathroom, and with the help of Schnorr Plumbing and Rebath, she’s getting a new shower,” he said, adding “We’re also redoing the kitchen and upgrading all the outlets in the house with GFI outlets.”

Congressman Chris Gibson arrived and immediately got to work helping Torre and other volunteers paint the trim on the outside of the house. “This is really wonderful,” he said, his paint brush smoothing white paint along the weather-beaten window trim.

“We’re doing this for the veterans and I try and support them any way I can,” he added. “Sometimes I’m frustrated in [Washington] D.C., but this reminds me of the old barn-raisings, when the whole community got together to help a neighbor.”

As the work continued, the word got out that Pagan had just celebrated her birthday two days before.

“I’m so excited. I didn’t think I was still eligible and I got new plumbing,” Pagan, who is 75, said. “The past month has been a whirlwind. It’s a wonderful birthday present.”

Rebuilding Together is a nationwide organization that for the past two decades has provided critical and free home repairs to more than 3,000 homes around the nation with the help of 50,000 volunteers.

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