Among parties with musicians, celebrity flag football games and other Super Bowl-related festivities, is an act of kindness.
For the past month, nonprofit organization Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay has been making free repairs on 30 Tampa homes in their Kickoff to Rebuild.
The initiative, to make repairs on and rebuilds of houses in Super Bowl cities, was started by national nonprofit Rebuilding Together 25 years ago in partnership with the NFL. Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay is an affiliate. This year has seen builds in 29 of the NFL’s 32 markets nationwide, more than ever before.
Through a partnership with Lowe’s Home Improvement, the official home improvement retail sponsor of the NFL, homes in West Tampa, East Tampa, Drew Park, Orient Park and Sulphur Springs have received critical repairs and roof replacements for the past several weeks.
The initiative led up to Friday’s special day of builds in which volunteers from Lowe’s and local contractors made repairs to homes for low-income families. NFL players Lyndell “Mack” Wilson and Derwin Gray attended the event to show support.
The repairs include roof replacements, replacement of AC units and water heaters, installment of hurricane impact windows and wheelchair ramps. They will impact 54 children and 46 adults in the Tampa Bay area.
Wanda Vinson and her father, 84-year-old Otis, are one family benefitting from the program.
Vinson moved back to her father’s home when he was declared legally blind and lost both legs from complications of diabetes.
Soon after, it became clear that she would have to quit her job at a pharmacy and become his full-time caretaker.
When she moved in, her mother, Willie Ceil Vinson, was still living, but also suffered from diabetes and had a series of strokes. She died in January.
Vinson returned to school to become a medical assistant, mainly so she would know how to help her dad in an emergency. Her son helps her, working nights and staying with Otis during the day while Vinson goes to school.
But the 1957 home is in extreme disrepair, with issues ranging from a leaky roof, unsealed windows and doors, to no working kitchen.
Vinson said that as her father’s caretaker, Medicaid pays her $10 an hour for 27 hours a week. With high electric and water bills as well as taxes, she told Otis, “Dad, we’re going under. The house is becoming too much, we can’t afford her.”
She called Senior Connection, who gave her a list of resources that included Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay. She applied and met the criteria for the program.
“I thought it was God sent from heaven,” she said. “That is all I needed.”
Volunteers from Lowe’s have already repaired a leaky patch of roof and were measuring windows and doors for replacement. They can’t fix everything that the house needs, but Vinson is grateful for the help.
“I cannot thank Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay enough for doing this me,” Vinson said. “It’s nice to have somebody care.”
Beyond the partnership with the NFL, Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay works year-round repairing and rebuilding homes for low-income families in Hillsborough County.
Brandy Canada-Williams, the nonprofit organization’s director of operations, said in the past year they have done 127 rehabs, an additional 54 roofs and 12 rebuilt houses.
The organization also has an affordable housing program that offers new builds and rehabs of foreclosed properties for first-time buyers, partnering with HUD-certified agencies.
Canada-Williams said there are plans to expand to Pinellas County. She added that since their fiscal year began in June, they’ve spent $3.2 million in the community.
“I just want people to know the impact the organization has,” Canada-Williams said.
On Saturday, Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay is hosting the Kickoff to Rebuild community fair at Ragan Park in Tampa with the goal to provide local residents resources from 28 local organizations and nonprofits. The OneBlood Bus will be onsite conducting COVID-19 antibody tests and 250 COVID-19 prevention kits will be given away while supplies last. The event is free, but RSVPs are strongly encouraged and can be made on the organization’s Facebook page. It runs from 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at 1200 E Lake Ave.
To donate, volunteer or for more information on Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay, visit rttb.org.