Anne St. Juste, 42, worked hard to move her family into their own home, situated in a safe Mattapan neighborhood. The elementary school teacher — and single mother of five — purchased the house at foreclosure only a few months ago. A true “fixer-upper,” St. Juste needed some help to make the house more livable for her children, ages 11 to 19, and her 72-year-old mother.
So, to the rescue came AARP’s Create the Good and Rebuilding Together Boston, a non-profit organization working in partnership with skilled labor and volunteers to stabilize and restore the houses of low-income homeowners and non-profit-owned facilities in Boston.
On April 24 — Rebuilding Together Boston’s National Rebuilding Day — nearly 50 AARP volunteers converged, resolved to turn St. Juste’s house into a home. Over a span of nine hours, the group painted every room — transforming dark and gloomy into bright and sunny. They cleaned and painted the kitchen, removed old carpet, installed a new screen door and light fixtures, and repaired broken windows. Volunteers also worked outdoors: tackling yard cleanup, repairs and landscaping.
“I feel so excited about the renovations,” said St. Juste. “We couldn’t do it all by ourselves. The renovations will help make our house healthy, clean and safe.”
AARP Massachusetts State President Linda Fitzgerald summed up the experience, saying, “We used sweat, elbow grease, and pure-hearted determination to make this house a better place, a safe place for the St. Juste family. Whether you have five minutes or five hours — nine in this case — your contribution really can make a world of difference.”
One of the AARP volunteers, Linda Wheeler of Roxbury, wanted to get involved in the effort to do more in her community. She said, “Home modification is important because it helps people stay warm and comfortable in their homes.” Another volunteer, John Mears of Jamaica Plain, was determined to “help seniors make their homes safer, more convenient and energy efficient.”
According to Rebuilding Together Boston, more than 550 volunteers participated in National Rebuilding Day locally, renovating eight sites across the city of Boston.
St. Juste came to the United States from Haiti more than 10 years ago. She put herself through Cambridge College, earning a bachelor’s degree in education. She said, “I have five kids. I struggled. But, I made sure they got everything. I went to school and worked hard.