By Kayleen McCabe, Host of diy Network’s Rescue Renovation
The forecast called for rain, but the weather ended up being sunny and clear.
In hindsight, this is probably a good metaphor for what Rebuilding Together does for homeowners. But when I woke up last Saturday – National Rebuilding Day – the gorgeous weather just meant I had one less thing to be nervous about.
Yes, I was super nervous. First-day-of-school-style, butterflies-in-my-stomach nervous. Would I hit it off with the other volunteers? Would unforeseen hurdles pop up? Would the men on my team resist a female team captain? Would I split my pants (okay, that last fear nags me on any worksite, but I especially didn’t want it happening among strangers!)?
So I did the one scientifically-proven thing you do when you want your day to go smoothly: I made cookies. Dozens of cookies. I offered them up to my fellow volunteers as we rolled up that morning at 7:30am to our worksite – a house in the Barnum neighborhood. Within minutes, front teeth were covered in chocolate chips, people were mingling, sugar levels were spiking, and my butterflies started to subside…(even if the odds of my pants splitting had maybe increased a little bit : )
I’d been to the house a few weeks earlier for a walk-through with Stan and my fellow captain, Soheyla, so I knew what we needed to accomplish. On the other hand, I had no idea what skills our team of volunteers, who were largely from Travelers Insurance, would or wouldn’t bring to the table. Imagine how relieved I was when I found out we had our bases covered: There was a master plumber, some guys with construction backgrounds, and many hands willing to pick up paintbrushes – a skill that was really needed, since new windows had been installed recently in the house, but none of their perimeters had been repainted. Oh, and did I mention that everyone was really enthusiastic and cool? By now, the butterflies had not only flown out of my stomach, but were on their way out of those newly-installed windows, too!
We got to work stirring paint, switching up light fixtures, replacing the toilet and faucets, installing grab rails, and swapping out a garage door opener. Around 11:30, I lifted my eyes up from a project and took in the sight of everyone engrossed in their tasks, the gentle hum of power tools, and just the overall sense that everyone really wanted to be there. It was a really cool moment.
One of my biggest concerns was that I wouldn’t have the time to devote to a handrail that needed to be created and installed on the house’s front porch. There were specific codes that needed to be met, and it was an intricate undertaking that required expertise and focus. So I was thrilled when my co-worker – Rescue Renovation’s master carpenter, Shane – agreed to tackle it for me. He showed up on one of his rare days off with his son, Shane Jr., and built a masterpiece of a handrail out of redwood. Thanks so much, Shane! You get the first cookie the next time I bring some to set!
From the lunch donated by a local restaurant to the organization on behalf of Rebuilding Together, I was just in awe of what can be accomplished for worthy homeowners when people commit a little bit of their time, energy, and know-how. I have the good fortune of doing this almost every day for work, but it’s different when the stakes are higher and the results won’t be seen by a television audience. Come on out for National Rebuilding Day next year, everyone! Need some motivation? Here’s that cookie recipe…and I promise to make them again in ’13:
Andes Mint cookies
½ cup salted butter – softened
¾ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup white granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. vanilla extract
10 oz chipped Andes mints
2 2/3 cups flour
Blend butter, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla and eggs until mixed. Stir in Andes mints, then flour. Chill for one hour. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes.