Jerry Liu — Spruce Up a House
Fresh out of the Army and without a career, Jerry Liu got lucky in 1972 when an acquaintance helped him land a job in commercial construction. "I started as a common laborer," Liu says.
He is now an uncommonly dedicated volunteer. Liu, 61, puts his construction and contracting skills to work remodeling homes for Rebuilding Together, which helps low-income people, including the elderly and disabled, stay in safe, affordable housing.
Having built a thriving residential-remodeling business in suburban Montgomery County, Md. — a region near Washington, D.C., that's known for its affluence but is not without its poorer neighborhoods — Liu decided two decades ago it was time to repay the community where he eventually prospered.
"I can use my skills," he says. And that's much more satisfying than making a cash donation. Besides, back then, says Liu, "I didn't have any money, anyway!"
Liu once managed a renovation in the home of an 89-year-old war veteran, and their new friendship was one of the benefits of his work. The vet is an unheralded grass-roots activist in the Civil Rights Movement, Liu says, and his tiny house originally lacked indoor plumbing.
"Somebody enclosed a porch some years back and crammed in a bathroom and kitchen," he says. "If you're washing dishes in the sink, you're probably going to burn your shirt on the range. The bathroom shower stall is rusted out. You can't turn around in there."
The solution, Liu decided, was to tear down the enclosure and build a universally accessible replacement. His motto: "If we're going to do it, do it right."
Over the years Liu's employees, as well as subcontractors and other volunteers, have all contributed time and supplies to numerous such projects. "I don't know anyone who says, 'What's in it for me?' It's just, 'What do you need? I got it. It's on the way.' "
How it works. Join others in your community to repair the homes of low-income people, including those who are older or who have disabilities. You'll learn the necessary skills when you show up.
Time it takes. As little as one day or can be an ongoing commitment.
Contact. Go to Rebuilding Together online or locate a local affiliate or call the national office at 800-473-4229.