My Volunteer Journal: Episode 20 – Celebrating Veterans on Memorial Weekend with Rebuilding Together

kitchen“How Dare You! HOW DARE YOU! Stop it! Ridiculous. Stop it!” My hand slams down on the buzzing alarm clock.  To me few things are more unpleasant than an alarm in the morning.  I’m a true night owl and frequent insomniac so any sleep is a blessing and being ripped from that all too rare event is slightly painful.  An alarm on a Holiday weekend (like Memorial weekend) is even more Ugggg inspiring. But I have a mission so...

This Memorial weekend I am waking up to renovate the kitchen of a veterans' home with Rebuilding Together.  When I consider the massive sacrifices veterans undergo and the horrible mornings they must endure it makes me feel a bit sheepish to gripe about my sleep issues.

The kitchen is in a transitional home for veterans provided by the organization New Directions.  Besides offering some housing New Directions helps soldiers with job training and placement, parenting and money management classes, legal and financial assistance, and many other programs that assist those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), drug addiction, and other medical problems.

The kitchen used to be so small and outdated it appeared (according to the “before” pics) to be dangerous to cook in if not just a massive pain in the neck.  The remodeled kitchen I walk into is  gutted, new cabinets are in place and volunteers are busy sanding the white walls to prep for painting.  I am handed primer to paint onto the walls with while other volunteers install hardware and bring in the new appliances.  By lunch I manage to apply primer to a good portion of the walls as well as my clothes and hair.

The most exciting development of the day happened during lunch underneath a large shade tree. Relaxing near the tree I spotted a large brown spider hanging from a disorganized web attached to the trunk.  “Wow, look at the size of that spider,” I said and everyone turned to stare. At that moment long elegant black legs stretched down from a hole in the tree followed by a huge black body with a bright red hourglass emblazoned on the abdomen.  The large brown spider looked like an infant compared to this arachnid. I had managed to find a very real and very dangerous Black Widow spider. The Widow seemed eager to come to lunch and took a few strides forward.  We made room for her by backing up about two feet. She considered us for a few moments, decided we were lame and quickly returned to her burrow.

After the spider fiasco we all returned to work, but there was a notable change in everyone’s behavior. As we worked to put the final two coats of green paint on the kitchen people kept jerking and slapping at their bodies.  Just a glimpse of danger and we had all become a spastic and paranoid. There we were, a group of chickens, working on the home of women who had bravely faced death to maintain our way of life.  

By the end of the day the kitchen was not only gorgeous, but fully operational. And the spider... well I guess she was sleeping soundly in her hole or possibly consuming a mate.

One of the great things about volunteering for a group like Rebuilding Together is that you can physically see the difference you can make in a few short hours.  R T is a nation wide organization.  To see what projects they have in your area or to start a chapter in your town go to