In 2003, Michelle Larkin invited a group of friends to her home, so that she could share an idea with them. She’d heard about the national nonprofit organization Rebuilding Together, which sends groups of community volunteers to repair homes for their neighbors in need, and thought that if she could start a Saratoga County affiliate, it would offer people in our community the same dignity (and safety) that many other communities across the country have offered their citizens. One friend presented her with $100 right then and there, and soon after, Rebuilding Together Saratoga County (RTSC) was born.
The first year, the organization completed repairs on six homes in Saratoga County, at no cost to their owners. Over the years, that number has steadily increased, and by 2019, RTSC was able to repair 145 homes with the help of numerous volunteers, and it received enough donations to even hire skilled labor for some of the projects. Larkin remains the executive director of the organization, and her passion for making a difference in our community has never wavered.
Last February, RTSC was the recipient of an altogether different kind of donation. Someone donated an entire home and $20,000 to the organization. The single-family residence, located in Mechanicville, presented the nonprofit with a rather mammoth project to take on—but equally, a wonderful opportunity to raise funds (RTSC decided to first fix it up and then put it on the market). And it wasn’t any old home; with three bedrooms and two bathrooms, it included an expansive open dining and kitchen area, spacious living room and cozy first floor room. But the house dated from 1875, and it was in need of a drastic renovation.
Enter RTSC’s Board President Paul Lambert, who also happens to be a senior project manager at Bonacio Construction, Inc. in Saratoga. His knowledge of construction played an important role in the revamp of RTSC’s newfound donation. Larkin also retained the services of Unlimited Construction LLC, in Schenectady, to act as general contractor, and Will Archino, project manager for RTSC, worked diligently to guide the organization through the renovation process. Lambert volunteered many of his days off to work on the Mechanicville home, and he even mowed the lawn to maintain a pleasant exterior as the remodel was underway.
Before the organization could even begin to envision the 19th-century house with a new kitchen and other upgrades, it had to assess its structural integrity. At 145 years old, the home required some work on its foundation, chimney and basement to ensure its overall safety. Bonacio Construction’s metal shop provided the structural steel, at cost, to add additional support beams. Overall, the bones of the home were solid, and once the necessary safety measures were addressed, RTSC was able to proceed with the revitalization of the home. A brand-new heating system was provided, at cost, by Saratoga’s B&B Plumbing and Heating, and the company also donated the labor to have it installed. New flooring was added throughout the first floor, which not only brightened up the home, but also created a nice flow from room-to-room. The kitchen cabinets were refaced to preserve some of the home’s original charm, while gorgeous new granite countertops were generously donated and installed by Granite & Marble Works, Inc. of Wilton. Lowe’s provided RTSC with a $3000 gift card, which made it possible to install brand-new stainless-steel appliances in the kitchen. The bathrooms were both renovated to ensure that they were up to date and in good working order. Past RTSC Board President, E.J. Harkins, was able to secure brand-new carpeting donated by Mechanicville’s Flooring Environment. The carpeting provided a much-needed facelift to the staircase as well as the three bedrooms.
With the interior completely remodeled, it was now time to focus on the exterior. Sonny Bonacio, owner of Bonacio Construction, Inc., personally offered RTSC the use of his company’s equipment at no cost, so that the house’s exterior could come back to life. A mini excavator was brought in to make sure that the house had proper drainage and to build it a retaining wall. A family fire pit was added to the yard.
This was the first experience that RTSC ever had remodeling an entire home. As with any new experience, all involved learned a great deal, and of course, it took a little longer than initially anticipated. Overall, Larkin describes the process as a great experience. “We are hoping to do more,” she says. “This not only goes along with our mission, [but] it also provides a great funding source for the long-term sustainability of our organization.”
And what would an amazing story be without a happy ending? According to RTSC’s Larkin, the house is currently under contract to be sold to first-time homebuyers. So, everybody wins.