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Nonprofit works to repair damaged St. Pete homes

Veronica Brezina

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Gail Allen thanks Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay and Duke Energy for restoring her home in Childs Park. All photos: Veronica Brezina.

When Hurricane Ian slammed Florida’s coastline last year, the high winds caused additional damage to Gail Allen’s home in Childs Park. Allen, a lifelong St. Pete resident, now has a new roof and windows thanks to a local nonprofit. 

Headquartered in Tampa and with an office in St. Petersburg, Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay (RTTB) provides home rehabilitation and modification services at no cost to low-income families.

The group’s executive team and media members stood in the front yard of Allen’s home at 4354 Fairfield Ave. S. to celebrate the six-week-long transformation. 

“After Hurricane Ian, it became apparent I would need some help,” Allen said through joyful tears. Allen, who spent over 40 years in the health care field and is a low-income resident, continuously thanked the team at RTTB and Duke Energy leaders for backing the organization.

Following Hurricane Ian, RTTB was designated as the lead affiliate for statewide response and recovery efforts, extending its service area to heavily impacted communities in Southwest and Central Florida. 

To date, the local affiliate has spent more than $1.2 million to repair several severely dilapidated homes in the area to make them more resilient as the state enters another hurricane season. Allen received $29,000 worth of improvements from RTTB. The repairs ranged from the installation of new lighting, flooring and kitchen cabinets to the more costly fixtures, such as a new roof and air conditioning unit. 

Inside the home at 4354 Fairfield Ave. S., St. Petersburg. 

Allen said she discovered RTTB through word of mouth and met the qualifications to become eligible for the program. 

Volunteers and subcontractors hustled to start the work on Allen’s home in May and completed the restoration earlier this month. 

“We all know housing opportunities are important for progress. One of my administration’s pillars and a major element of our housing plan is preserving homeownership. In other words, ensuring folks like Ms. Allen can stay in their existing homes,” St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch said to attendees. “We know resiliency is one of those areas people of color and low-income communities are often left out of in the sustainability and resiliency discussion, and they are often unable to access energy efficiency opportunities for their homes.” 

He commended the RTTB team and Duke Energy for also addressing these issues at a time when housing costs are increasing. 

“I’ve seen the community flourish and face challenges and witnessed the struggle of homeowners trying to keep up with repairs in cases where their income remains stagnant,” City Councilman John Muhammad commented. 

During the event, the Duke Energy Foundation presented a $75,000 check that both the local group and its sister affiliate, Rebuilding Together North Central Florida, will utilize to fund the revitalization of more homes. 

The Duke Energy Foundation provides more than $30 million in philanthropic support. The foundation’s program was created to make investments in the local communities the energy provider serves. 

Brandy Canada, RTTB senior director of operations, explained that once someone applies and meets the eligibility criteria, the team does a home assessment and then a decision is made based on available funding. 

RTTB worked on five other homes in Child’s Park and 27 homes in Lealman with funding provided by Federal Home Loan Bank. In total, the group has worked on 143 homes across the Tampa Bay metro and an additional 106 homes are currently undergoing repairs. 

“The needed repairs caused by the hurricane have propelled us from being a $6 million agency [nationwide] to a $17 million organization. The funds we are getting are from corporate sponsorships,” Canada said, listing partners such as Lowe’s and Home Depot. 

Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties and RTTB also recently joined forces to open the St. Pete Resource Center.

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