LEWISTON — On Saturday, Claude Perron shut his porch door for the first time in two years.

Homeowner Claude Perron, left, looks on as Rebuilding Together L/A Maine board member Alan Hahnel, foreground, and volunteer and Bates College student Kate Loughlin take a measurement for a piece of wood to repair the side of Perron’s home where a porch roof had rotted and needed to be torn down. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Perron doesn’t like change. He’s lived in the same home on Prescott Street in Lewiston for more than 50 years. Mementos from a long life with his beloved wife, now passed, and four children decorate his home.

But, Perron said he was happy with the changes volunteers from Rebuilding Together LA made to his home. Besides sanding the door so it fit snug in the frame, they also replaced his broken screen door and removed the old, hazardous roof from his porch.

Rebuilding Together L/A is a local branch of a national nonprofit organization which helps elderly people age in place by providing no-cost home repairs. They aim to assist people who physically and financially would not be able to complete necessary repairs themselves.

Because of their efforts, Perron, who is 86, can sit on his porch without concern that the roof will collapse on top of him. The lifelong Lewiston resident can lock his door at night, and his home will be warmer this winter, too.

“It’s really not that much work and there’s a great deal of satisfaction,” said Alan Hahnel, who helped found the Lewiston-Auburn branch in 2002.

In total, Rebuilding Together L/A spent $500 on materials for Perron’s home. Hahnel, a professional roofer and sider and president of Hahnel Bros. in Lewiston, estimated that it could have cost $2,000 to $3,000 to have professionals do similar work.

Volunteers helped repair three other homes on Saturday. A mix of professionals, long-time helpers, and Bates College students replaced two screen doors and reinforced an elderly woman’s deck on Fisher Avenue in Lewiston.

David Trask, a longtime volunteer, said he finds it incredibly gratifying to see the reactions of the elderly homeowners. Their excited faces and tears of joy have prompted him to participate year after year.

Saturday’s work was the first Rebuilding Together event held in the Twin Cities since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020. Usually, volunteers repair homes in the spring, but it was only this fall with vaccination rates on the rise that volunteers and elderly homeowners were comfortable gathering together.

The event was smaller than in previous years, with 15 volunteers and four projects, however longtime volunteers said they were just happy to be able to help people again.

Board member Alan Hahnel, right, and Bates College student Kate Loughlin, left, hold a piece of plywood for Hahnel’s son Jesse as he makes a cut while making repairs at a home on Prescott Street in Lewiston on Saturday morning. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

“The more years you do it, the more it does for us,” George Greenwood, also a founding member, said. “We feel good about improving the community.”

Greenwood and Hahnel said that homeowners often expect to have to pay a bill after the work is finished.

“They’re anticipating a big bill that they don’t have the money for. But no, it’s all free,” Hahnel said. “You can give money to a cause. But this, you physically go up and physically do it. That, for some of us, is powerful. And once a year? Piece of cake.”

Applications for home repair projects with Rebuilding Together L/A can be found on its website or requested by mailing PO Box 7161 Lewiston, Me 04243-7161.


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