Volunteer group takes on first house in Southold


The North Fork chapter of Rebuilding Together Long Island has started its first local project.

Last Saturday, the volunteer-based group, which provides free home repairs to neighbors in need, began work on a century-old Southold house. The property’s homeowner, who declined comment for this story, lives alone and is unable to complete the repairs herself.

“This project is mostly about making the house more heat- and energy-efficient,” said local RTLI leader Robert Harper of Mattituck, who is also a member of the Southold Town Historic Preservation Commission.

The goal of the project’s seven volunteers is to make the house safer for winter by weatherizing its windows, installing storm windows and replacing an exterior wall. The group is also installing an electric stove inside the home and fixing its front steps.

Mr. Harper said his chapter was given a $2,500 budget from Rebuilding Together Long Island for the project and is “really trying to stretch it” by accepting any donated supplies they can get.

Tom Jenkins, owner of Jenkins Construction in Greenport, has been volunteering his time, tools and some wood to assist them.

“I’m more than happy to help out,” he said. “I’m pretty good at fixing anything.”

Mr. Jenkins said he likes to keep himself busy, so he’ll help out RTLI whenever he can. For this project, he’s in charge of fixing the stoop and doing some interior framing.

Another volunteer, Steve Geraci, said he donated leftover materials from when he built his own house eight years ago.

“Everybody brings whatever they have,” he said. “Some of us are more skilled than others, but there’s always a job for somebody.”

The group will take as long as it needs to complete the project, but Mr. Harper said he hopes to leave it in the hands of his volunteers as soon as possible so that he can begin work on the next house. RTLI has already received five applications for home repairs and its next project is in Manorville. Mr. Harper also said he’s always looking for more volunteers and donations.

“A lot of people think they don’t have the skills to do this, but we could use people just to help clean up,” he said. “Also, people could learn as they are doing.”

Mr. Harper hopes to someday soon host a class teaching people basic home-building skills. While the class would help inform the community about ways they can fix their own homes, he hopes it would also give people the confidence to volunteer with RTLI.

“This has been a dream of mine for the past two years,” Mr. Harper said. “I wanted to just find something that can give me a purpose in life while in retirement.”

Mr. Harper, a retired William Floyd School District music teacher who has renovated historic properties of his own, said he’s happy to keep community members in their homes.

“A lot of these people end up leaving the North Fork or living in nursing homes,” he said. “If we can help them regain their independence, then I think that’s a very good thing.”

Top photo caption: Robert Harper (left) and Tom Jenkins woking at the house in Southold Tuesday morning. (Credit: Krysten Massa)

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