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Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay repairs St. Pete home

When Hurricane Ian devastated Florida's coastline last year, it left Gail Allen, a lifelong resident of St. Petersburg, with additional damage to her home in Childs Park. Thankfully, here at Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay (RTTB), we are striving to help as many residents as we can to Rebuild. Although we are headquartered in Tampa, we are working Bay to Bay in Florida. We are dedicated to providing home rehabilitation and modification services to low-income families at no cost.

In a heartwarming celebration of the six-week-long transformation, our executive team at RTTB and members of the media gathered in the front yard of Allen's home. Overwhelmed with joy, Allen expressed her gratitude through tears, acknowledging the assistance she received from us here at RTTB and the support of Duke Energy leaders.

Following the devastation caused by Hurricane Ian, RTTB was appointed as the lead affiliate for statewide response and recovery efforts, expanding our service area to include heavily impacted communities in Southwest and Central Florida. To date, RTTB has allocated more than $1.2 million to repair several severely dilapidated homes in the region, making them more resilient as Florida braces for another hurricane season. Allen herself received approximately $29,000 worth of improvements, ranging from the installation of new lighting, flooring, and kitchen cabinets to more substantial repairs like a new roof and air conditioning unit.

Allen shared that she discovered RTTB through word of mouth and met the program's eligibility requirements. Volunteers and subcontractors worked diligently, beginning the restoration process in May and completing it earlier this month.

Recognizing the importance of housing opportunities for progress, St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch emphasized that preserving homeownership is a key pillar of his administration's housing plan. Mayor Welch acknowledged the significance of resiliency and sustainability discussions often overlooking people of color and low-income communities, making it difficult for them to access energy efficiency opportunities for their homes. He commended RTTB and Duke Energy for addressing these disparities, particularly at a time when housing costs are rising.

City Councilman John Muhammad added his perspective, noting the challenges faced by homeowners in keeping up with repairs when their income remains stagnant. He praised the efforts of the RTTB team and Duke Energy for their commitment to the community.

During the celebratory event, the Duke Energy Foundation presented a generous $75,000 check, which will be utilized by both RTTB and its sister affiliate, Rebuilding Together North Central Florida, to fund the revitalization of additional homes. The Duke Energy Foundation, known for providing over $30 million in philanthropic support, has designed its program to make impactful investments in the local communities it serves.

Brandy Canada, our Senior Director of Operations at RTTB, explained that once an individual applies and meets the eligibility criteria, the team conducts a comprehensive home assessment. Based on available funding, a decision is then made to proceed with the necessary repairs. RTTB has already worked on five other homes in Child's Park and 27 homes in Lealman, with funding provided by the Federal Home Loan Bank. Across the Tampa Bay metro area, we have completed repairs on 143 homes, and an additional 106 homes are currently undergoing restoration.

Canada expressed gratitude for the financial support received from corporate sponsorships, which has enabled RTTB's tremendous growth. What was once a $6 million agency has now evolved into a $17 million organization, thanks to partnerships with companies like Lowe's and Home Depot.

In a recent collaboration, Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties and RTTB joined forces to establish the St. Pete Resource Center. This collaborative effort will provide valuable resources and support to the community, furthering the mission of both organizations.

Through their tireless efforts and partnerships, Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay is making a significant impact in the lives of individuals like Gail Allen, ensuring that those in need have safe and resilient homes. Their commitment to helping low-income families and the communities affected by natural disasters is commendable, and their work continues to uplift and rebuild Tampa Bay.

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