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Volunteer Alesha Stam listens to instructions while helping install vinyl siding as part of a Rebuilding Together project to renovate the Springdale, Arkansas, home of James and Crystal Landers. An affiliate of Rebuilding Together, a national nonprofit organization that assists low-income homeowners with repairs, was recently established in Chattanooga. / Photo by Aaron Skinner/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Several years ago, St. Elmo resident and pastor the Rev. Cal Boroughs noticed that a neighbor's home had fallen into significant disrepair. Boroughs contacted numerous agencies that assist low-income homeowners with repairs about getting help, but his neighbor didn't qualify because he didn't have homeowners insurance.

That's when a friend suggested looking into Rebuilding Together, a national organization that helps low-income homeowners with home repairs they could not afford otherwise and which allows its affiliates' board members to choose whether to provide assistance to people without homeowners insurance.

Boroughs said he understands why organizations with similar missions consider a lack of homeowners insurance a disqualifying factor for assistance, as the need for services is already greater than the agencies can fulfill and they hesitate to put scarce resources into homes that have a greater potential of not being maintained. A lack of homeowners insurance may also be an indicator of deeper underlying structural issues, he said.

Yet Boroughs also recognizes there is a need for this type of assistance in his neighborhood and the Greater Chattanooga area. One example is the Lombardo sisters, two elderly St. Elmo residents whose home — which they inherited from their parents and was not insured — was badly damaged by a tree that fell on the roof during a recent storm. With no other help readily available, neighbors started a fundraising campaign online to help fund the repairs, which have not yet begun.

"Everyone agrees there is more need than there are resources," said Boroughs. "We want to build an organization that can step into the gap."

Now that the process of establishing the affiliate is complete, the board is looking to add to its six members. Boroughs said they'd like to find people with skills in different areas, including an accountant to serve as treasurer, an architect, an attorney and someone with a marketing background.

In order to begin working with homeowners, the national organization requires the affiliate to have at least $50,000 in the bank. Although fundraising efforts have not yet begun, the board would like to have a project identified by this fall.

The affiliate plans to start its work in St. Elmo, where all the current board members live, and then branch out into other areas of Chattanooga.

For more information about Rebuilding Together, visit rebuildingtogether.org. If interested in joining the board or contributing to the local affiliate, contact Boroughs at revcal1950@gmail.com.

Email Emily Crisman at ecrisman@timesfreepress.com.

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