|Dow helps out where he can when he can
Disability because of stroke doesn’t deter Rohnert Park resident from giving back what was given to him in his time of need
An animal had chewed through the water pipes of a doublewide mobile home, creating a detrimental leak that would force a mother and her children to traverse a large hole in order to reach their own living room.
Exposed to the outdoor elements because of financial strains, they lived in these conditions for years before receiving relief from Rebuilding Together, a nationwide program kept in operation because of volunteer hours. In addition to repairing their floor, Rebuilding Together workers replaced some appliances and a broken window, things most families take for granted on a daily basis.
“We were able to go out there and completely change her life,” says Ron Dodds, who has been on the program’s board of directors for 13 years. “It is truly our pleasure to come out and help.”
One of many success stories experienced by such a program, there is one man in particular who turned around and decided to give back. It began seven years ago with a simple fence repair at the home of Carol and Don Dow and transformed into lasting friendships and improved living conditions for many in need. Having worked in the construction business for 40 years and moved greatly by the work volunteers of Rebuilding Together did to his home, Don Dow decided to lend his expertise to the cause despite being disabled due to a stroke.
“I couldn’t contribute quite a bit after the stroke. But we were so touched by the work they did on our fence,” Don said.
Now a board member for five years, he has helped on more than 19 projects, personally trained two interns and earned the first ever Don Dow Service of Excellence Award presented during last Thursday’s annual volunteer dinner.
“There are able-bodied people out there who are not doing their part,” says Dodds, describing with admiration how Dow once spent an entire day painting the side of a house using his one good arm. “He refuses to hide behind his disabilities. He exemplifies what a Rebuilding Together volunteer is. You do what ever you can even if it makes you uncomfortable.”
Rebuilding Together, formerly Christmas in April, has been changing the lives of low-income, elderly and disabled citizens in Rohnert Park and Cotati since its foundation in 1999, enabling them to live a dignified lifestyle in a safe home. Nestled in an office off Southwest Boulevard since 2008, they have been able to expand since the move, bringing in more projects, workers and donators, all crucial elements in a program that runs solely on the contributions of its city and volunteers.
“It’s a great program,” says Eric Lathrop, President of the Board of Directors, who has been working with them since the beginning. “It does a lot of great things for people in need.”
On a beautiful summer evening, members of the organization dined in the courtyard outside their office on food from the Taqueria Ranchero, appearing to any onlookers as a close family. Executive Director Diane Broadhead granted awards to Grocery Outlet, Reyff Electric Co., Bill Boraa, Linda Babonis, Betty Fredricks and other sponsors who have stood by the organization for years. The event turned emotional when Dodds took the stage and called forth Dow, presenting him with an award of his namesake as well as a placard hosting spaces for those in the future that will follow in the man’s footsteps.
“He volunteers a lot of time to a great cause,” says council member Gina Belforte. “I wish there were 10 of him.”
There are many programs throughout the year Rebuilding Together engages, their big one being Rebuild Day where thousands of volunteers from across the country rehabilitate homes of the low-income and elderly. Home Modification involves small alterations to those with disabilities so they can better access their living space, and the Emergency Program confronts more immediate health-threatening issues.
Aside from their sponsors, Rebuilding Together’s main source of revenue is bingo night on Fridays at the Rohnert Park Senior Center. Volunteers of all ages are welcome to join. Tayler Dodds, now 18, began working on site with her father at the age of five. Aside from providing for those who are unable to provide for themselves, they work to create a sense of pride and community involvement.
“There may be a time coming up when there is no funding,” says Ron Dodds. “But the fact is, volunteering is exactly what is going to make society great, or fail.”