Fran Marchesini, a resident at L’Arche Irenicon Community for Mentally Disabled Adults, pulls open a bulkhead door that will be repaired on Rebuilding Together Day.

The sites have been chosen, the families notified and community and business volunteers in Greater Haverhill are ready for the 15th annual Rebuilding Together Day on April 28.

"We'll be completing 35 projects on Rebuilding Day," said program Director Kathy Boudreau, adding that emergency repair requests continued to pour in even after the rebuilding day deadline passed. "I am truly amazed by the generosity in the communities we serve. We still need more volunteers and donations so we can take care of the emergency repair requests, and perhaps one day offer year-round emergency repairs."

Projects range from raking leaves and painting porches to installing windows, repairing roofs and constructing wheelchair ramps.

The L'Arche Irenicon Community Home for Mentally Disabled Adults is a nonprofit group housing 12 people within its three homes in Haverhill. All are scheduled to receive work.

"Rebuilding Together has done work for us for years. It's a really great program," Irenicon Director Fwanna Champlin said. "It is really a lifesaver, and we are fortunate to have professionals around here that are that generous with their time and often their materials as well."

Michelle Roy knew the great work Rebuilding Together had accomplished over the years and was propelled to fill out all the necessary paperwork on behalf of her mother, Lorraine Castine.

Castine had a stroke two years ago which severely hindered her ability to speak, and she is the primary caregiver for her son, Michael, 43, who has muscular dystrophy.

"A ramp will help both of them out," Roy said. "She is elderly and has a hard time climbing stairs. Michael is not in a wheelchair yet, but can't do stairs anymore. The ramp will help him because he falls a lot trying to get up the front stairs with his leg braces."

Castine has poured thousands of dollars into her house to make it more accessible for her son, but after renovations that made the shower handicapped accessible, the money simply ran out.

According to Boudreau, ramps are in demand this year. They are donated by AM-RAMP and prefab structures that can be easily disassembled and moved. Once a ramp is no longer needed, Rebuilding Together will uninstall and reuse it as the program is retaining ownership of the structures.

The Castine's house captain (volunteer in charge of the project) is Marc Mannheimer of Danny's Team, a nonprofit service group from Durham, N.H. Mannheimer, owner of Creative Therapies Inc. on Wingate Street, has volunteered his time and abilities every April for the past 12 years.

"This is our third ramp. Usually we build them that day from scratch (out of wood), but it will be much easier with these prefab ramps. It's fun and like putting together an Erector set," Mannheimer said.

Donat and Vera Turcotte will also have work done on their home.

Both in their 80s, they will celebrate their 61st wedding anniversary on Rebuilding Together Day. Donat suffers from emphysema and Vera has diabetes. They need a railing for the cellar staircase, a leaky roof needs repair and the porch windows are falling apart. The longtime Haverhill residents are thankful for the help.

"They are going to do some yard work and install hand bars in the bathroom," Vera said. "We're on a fixed income of social security. This is a wonderful organization that has helped us keep this house in shape and continue to live here. The hand bars will help us both get around easier."

Rebuilding Together's goal is to stabilize and revitalize homes in partnership with the community. They rely solely on skilled and unskilled volunteers and in-kind donations.

"The in-kind value we receive (materials and labor) in support of these projects totals over $175,000 annually," Boudreau said.

A new program policy in place this April ensures the original homeowners benefits from the repairs.

"Homeowners whose repairs exceed a market value of $2,000 or more will be required to attach a five-year lien to their property," the policy reads. "The amount of the lien will be reduced 20 percent annually; at the end of five years, the lien is eliminated."

Since 1991, Rebuilding Together Greater Haverhill Inc. has provided repairs and rehabilitation totalling over $1.8 million to more than 400 homes.

Rebuilding day begins at 7 a.m. on April 28 with a check-in breakfast at the Haverhill Elks Lodge on Summer Street. Project work begins at 9 a.m. and usually ends around 4 p.m.

Anyone interested in volunteering can call Kathy Boudreau at 978-469-0800. A tax deductible donation can be made to Rebuilding Together, P.O. Box 5161, Haverhill, MA, 01835.

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