Improving lives as well as homes in Sandoval County

Homeowner Ancilla Quintana, left, stands next to Jerry Saxton, volunteer and board member for Rebuilding Together at Southern Sandoval County. Saxton helped install the new swamp cooler on Quintana’s roof.

BERNALILLO — A feeling of dread used to overcome single mother of two Ancilla Quintana every time she saw a rain cloud form over her small Bernalillo home.

A bus driver by trade, Quintana said she would stretch her income as far as she could to cover bills and food, but had no way of fixing her deteriorating roof, a hardship she said her family felt every time it rained and water would leaked throughout her home.

One day Quintana’s luck changed when a friend told her about a county non-profit called Rebuilding Together at Southern Sandoval County, which helps low-income families do much-needed home improvements with no cost to the homeowner, she said.

“I called them and filled out an application, and I was put on the waiting list,” Quintana said. “About a year later, they came by and put a metal roof and a new swamp cooler in a two-day period. They were really fast.”

Janice Saxton, board member and volunteer for Rebuild, said the non-profit was started in 1999 and has helped numerous low-income and veteran families fix their homes for free.

“From the national organization, we get two grants a year,” Saxton said. “We can get a Lowe’s or a Sears grant in the spring and in the fall.”

According to Saxton, Sears does a Heroes at Home grant to be used for home improvements on veterans’ homes only. The Lowe’s grant, she said, can be used on any low-income home in southern Sandoval County, as long as it is not a mobile home.

“We have the funds to fix four homes a year with the grants we currently receive, but we have raised enough funds with our charity store to probably do another four homes on top of that,” Saxton said. “We also have a United Way grant that helps fund home improvements for families with children. We can do two more homes with their grant.”

The families chosen by Rebuild do not have to be at or below the poverty level, she said, but they do have to be homeowners, not renters.

As far as remodeling mobile homes, the Lowe’s grant is the only one that does not allow it. The rest of the grants do not care what the structure being remodeled is made out of.

“So we are basically helping people who are way below middle income,” Saxton said. “Many are way below the poverty level and I do not know how they exist.”

A wave of emotion could be heard in Quintana’s voice as she talked about the positive impact Rebuild made in her life.

“I lived without an air conditioner for four years and my house would get really hot,” Quintana said. “I have a 34-year-old son with Down Syndrome and he would just be suffering in the heat. Now we have a new swamp cooler and it has made a world of difference.”

Quintana said she would worry about the roof because it was deteriorated so badly that it had caved in and was only covered with a tarp.

“Every time I heard the rain, I would be beside myself with worry,” she said. “Now I welcome it with a new roof and cooling system.”

Quintana said she still admires the work Rebuild did and pinches herself to make sure she is not dreaming.

“If you have the same situation as me, call and get on the list,” she said. “It changed my life; chances are it will help another family in the same situation.”

For more information about Rebuild, email help@rebuildingtogethersandoval.org or call 896-3041. The Rebuild Charity store is open on Thursdays and Fridays, and is across the street from Bernalillo Rotary Park in boarded-up barracks.

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