TOOLBANKERS TAKE ON HOME IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS IN PUERTO RICO
Loiza, Puerto Rico (July 18, 2022) – The ToolBank USA team and a number of our affiliate executive directors traveled to Puerto Rico the week of June 20th. Jaime Valle, our TDS Puerto Rico Program Manager, helped our team identify 4 homes in need of repairs. We worked with Team Depot volunteers at the properties for 3 days. The Home Depot Foundation donation made this project possible by covering the cost of building supplies and additional tools / equipment for MU3 that will benefit the island’s long-term recover efforts for years to come.
As we look back at our time in Puerto Rico, the people and their home projects are what stand out the most. The first home we worked on was Javier Rosa’s located in Rio Grande, PR. Javier is a lucha libre
ex-wrestler and trainer who heads up charity appearances in schools to promote anti-bullying. After Hurricane Maria
, he collaborated with ProTechos
to help rebuild roofs while his own home remained in disrepair. Javier lives with and cares for his mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s. Our Team Depot friends were able to scrape off old paint, repaint the entire house, and patch sections of concrete on Javier’s home. It was a truly incredible transformation after just a day.
Our next 3 home projects were in the small town of Loiza
. Loiza suffered a catastrophic hit from Hurricane Maria in 2017. The devastation is still evident 5 years later with some homes completely abandoned after the storm. Our volunteers were fortunate to lend a hand at Zurima Santos’s home. Zurima was by far our most animated homeowner with music playing and dancing all day while our volunteers helped at her home. The atmosphere she created for our volunteers was incredibly lively and even with a language barrier for some of us, she managed to make us feel right at home. Zurima’s home needed windows and doors replaced, painting, a new shelter outside of her door, and a new sink and toilet. Our ToolBank and Team Depot volunteers completed a ton of work over a 3 day period and had a great time while they were working!
The next project house is owned by community leader for Barrio Las Cuevas, Kenny Diaz. During Hurricane Maria, she completely lost her home and has slowly been rebuilding it over the past 5 years. Thankfully, her father has construction experience and between him and her husband they have been working on the house, but it’s still not finished. After the hurricane she helped repair many of her neighbors’ homes that were damaged. This has been a common theme with our homeowners…they’ve all put their neighbors’ needs above their own at times. The sense of community is so strong in this little town. It truly felt like neighbors were family and in some cases they are! Our ToolBank team of volunteers were able to seal Kenny’s concrete roof. Prior to our trip, the roof had no sealing of any kind. This will prevent future leaks during the rainy season on the island.
Finally, we’ve come to our last project home on the island. The homeowner, Doña Josefa, is 92 years old and was surrounded by family members as our teams of volunteers worked on her home. She mostly lives alone, but has rooms in her home reserved for her children and grandchildren to visit and stay. The home has received minor repairs over the past 23 years and the damage from Hurricane Maria didn’t help the situation. Josefa’s house only has working electricity in 30% of the space. This neighborhood in Loiza also has water outages during the afternoons to deal with drought conditions on the island.
Our team of volunteers had a lot to tackle at Josefa’s home. Team Depot volunteers worked on clearing away trash and overgrown landscaping. They also power washed and painted the entire outside of the first level of her home. ToolBank volunteers tackled the interior and were able to lay down new flooring in the living room and bedroom. We also replaced a sink and toilet in the home’s only bathroom. Our teams painted the living room and replaced a lattice divider that separates the room from the kitchen. Finally, because of very generous donation the ToolBank team was able to purchase 2 new beds, box springs, bedframes, and bedding sets for the home, as well as some new curtains and curtain rods for the living room and bedroom.
Thank you to our sponsors who assisted with making this trip to Puerto Rico possible. Without your support, we wouldn’t have been able to bring our team together to help the families on the island. Airline travel was made possible by Airlink
, our lodging accommodations were taken care of by Airbnb
, and finally, The Home Depot Foundation helped us cover the cost of project supplies for our homeowners and provided Team Depot volunteers from local stores for our 3 days of work.