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Rebuilding Together Thurston County: The Greatest Nonprofit You Never Heard of!

By Shirley Stirling, The Journal of Olympia, Lacey & Tumwater

Just the other day, six men assembled at a house in Tumwater with their hammers, drills, saws, a bunch of nails, and several feet of lumber boards. They built a wheelchair ramp, as per Americans with Disabilities specifications, at the home of Del and Carol. (RTTC program recipients and volunteers are listed by first name only.)

These men, volunteering from Rebuilding Together Thurston County (RTTC) and Olympia Rotary Club worked in partnership. They included Rotarian volunteers Paul Knox, Steve Barney, Stu Hemmings, and Warren Carlson, with RTTC volunteer Bruce and RTTC Board Vice President Pete Kmet. Small projects can have a big impact on an individual family, and this was one in which two organizations worked together. The Rotary Club funds and assists with both large and small community projects. Such a good idea to fund this group, as Rebuilding Together is the greatest nonprofit I never heard of!

What is Rebuilding Together

Rebuilding Together offers no-cost home repair and wheelchair ramp construction to low-income homeowners, including veterans, seniors, families with children, and disabled homeowners. They are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

RTTC originally started in Texas in 1973. It was a grass-roots organization of neighbors helping neighbors with home repair and eliminating safety and health hazards. Now they intend to not only repair homes but to revitalize communities and rebuild lives! In 2003, RTTC was organized, as an affiliate, in Thurston County. This group, with nearly 100,000 volunteers nationwide, accomplishes its work with little fanfare.

Olympia Rotary Grant

Executive Director Cathy Johnson was quick to point out to this writer that Olympia Rotary made this most recent project possible. This individual ramp project was a kick-off project for a $5,000 grant. It started with a Request for Proposal published by the Olympia Rotary Club and ended with the funding for a much-needed open construction trailer and supplies awarded to Rebuilding Together Thurston County.

“Until now,” Cathy explained, “I drove 25 minutes to borrow a trailer, working around its availability. Now we have our own trailer available at any time - much needed for all kinds of projects.”

Playing Well with Others

RTTC “plays well with others,” working with a number of corporate and community partners. The group uses a lot of volunteer labor and is funded with grants and donations from individuals, organizations, and corporate sponsors. Demand certainly exceeds resources, but RTTC just received (in 2022) a $30,000 Community Development Block Grant from the City of Tumwater, for which they are grateful. Also, they receive supplies from Lowe’s and work closely with Habitat for Humanity.

When I first heard the RTTC group described, I exclaimed, “Wow, a home repair version of Habitat for Humanity!” That is true, though Habitat for Humanity also has a home repair program – in addition to helping people build new homes. The two groups’ programs are different, but they work together on some projects and refer back and forth to best help local residents.

RTTC Decisions are made by an all-volunteer board. The RTTC Board of Directors are Rebekah Graham, Board President; Pete Kmet, Board Vice President; Jason Vatne, Board Treasurer & Past President; Andi Rhodes Springer, Board Secretary, Tina Davis, Jennifer Ferguson, and David Palmer.

Build It! Breakfast

Register now for the annual (fundraising) Build It! Breakfast, Wednesday, March 15, 7:45-9 AM, at the Lacey Community Center.

Rebuilding Month/Day

April is Rebuilding Together’s National Rebuilding Month, which is an annual month-long call to service, culminating with National Rebuilding Day, on May 6, 2023. Watch their website for more information. Annually, over 30,000 volunteers donate about 230,000 hours of service to residents in need across the country during this call to service. To volunteer, contact RTTC at or (360) 539-7830.

Shirley Stirling, of Lacey, writes about good things people in Thurston County are doing. If you’d like to nominate someone to be profiled, contact her at

Originally published by The Journal of Olympia, Lacey & Tumwater on March 12, 2023. Visit,9708 to see the original post.


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