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May 9, 2024
Community involvement

Volunteers help homeowners build back gratitude, dignity and pride on National Rebuilding Day

Giving back to the communities where we work and live is part of Pepper’s heritage. For decades in both Chicago and Indianapolis, working with Rebuilding Together – a perfect partner for a construction company – has been a Pepper tradition.

Rebuilding Together is a leading national nonprofit organization with a mission to revitalize our communities. Each year, focused efforts on National Rebuilding Day combine to make a sustainable impact in partnership with communities across the country, while improving the homes and neighborhoods of residents in need so they may continue to live in warmth, safety and comfort. Since its inception in 1991, Rebuilding Together Metro Chicago has repaired more than 2,000 homes and 275 nonprofit facilities in the Chicagoland area. Throughout the years, Pepper has contributed at various levels in Illinois and became involved with the Indianapolis affiliate at its inception 25 years ago.

Pepper Senior Superintendent Brian Hope checks to ensure the safety of a new railing on the fronts steps of a Rebuilding Together home in Englewood, Illinois. 

According to Project Manager Josh Sainer and Senior Superintendent Brian Hope, the leaders of Pepper’s Rebuilding Together efforts in Illinois, the best way to describe the program is “Christmas in April.” Much of the renovation work is done for senior citizens who don’t have the resources or ability to maintain their homes themselves.

“This year we had the privilege of working with a woman who has lived in her Englewood, Illinois home for almost 40 years,” said Josh. “She raised her three children there and has always done her best to keep her home in good repair. She’s very proud of it.” However, after losing her job during COVID and being forced into early retirement, that has become more challenging.

With the help of Rebuilding Together and Pepper, she now hopes to be able to spend her golden years in her home both safely and securely. Approximately 35 people – a mix of both skilled and unskilled volunteers as well as union electricians and plumbers – were onsite to help address a wide range of needs, including the following:

  • Rebuilding the front porch
  • Adding storage, including strengthening pantry shelves
  • Painting several rooms
  • Attaching grab-bars in the shower
  • Installing new blinds and stair treads
  • Adding handrails on the basement steps
  • Installing a new dehumidifier and clothes dryer – the homeowner’s first – in the basement
  • Fixing minor electrical and plumbing issues
  • Refreshing the landscaping

New planters in the front yard will be both beautiful and practical for the homeowner. 


A new front porch improves the home's curb appeal while also making it safe for daily use. 

Our homeowner makes soaps,” said Josh, “so we had the opportunity to incorporate plants and flowers into her yard that she can use to support her hobby. We also enjoyed working with her in advance to pick out paint colors that would customize her home and enhance her experience with Rebuilding Together and Pepper.

Brian Hope shares Josh’s enthusiasm. “I first became involved with this program many years ago as a Pepper apprentice,” said Brian. “Now, more than 30 years later, it’s great to be back and to introduce Rebuilding Together to new teammates so they can keep Pepper participating well into the future.” In addition to helping the community, Brian appreciates the opportunity to meet outside of work with his Pepper colleagues from both the office and the field. “It’s great to get together without the stress of jobs, have some fun and give back,” he said. 

In Indianapolis, Project Manager Anthony White became involved in Rebuilding Together when he joined Pepper seven years ago and has advanced from a volunteer to a team leader to a current board member for the organization. He loves connecting with the homeowners to see how much they appreciate all of the hard work being done for them.

Project Manager Anthony White, seen here with Pepper’s Indianapolis homeowner, loves the feeling at the end of the day when all the improvements are revealed. “It’s heartwarming and makes all the hard work worth it.”

“Seeing someone walk into their home after we’ve finished is the best part of the day. The look on their faces is priceless and makes all the hard work worth it,” said Anthony. He also sees it as an opportunity to help neighborhoods by “keeping the culture in.”

“Without some help, many of these homeowners will eventually just have to move without some kind of assistance, which is how gentrification happens.”

This year was no different. Similar to Chicago, the Indianapolis team was assigned to work with a homeowner who has lived in her house for more than 40 years. Anthony said that “after living in a house for all those years, there are lots of little things that break down and a few big things too.” But in addition to those general repairs, this homeowner recently became the guardian to a family member who has Down Syndrome, so additional safety needs in the home needed to be addressed.

The Pepper Indiana team outside of the house they worked on. In addition to the electrical, plumbing and other miscellaneous repairs, the team helped build a porch railing and install household gates for the homeowner and her sister who has Down Syndrome.


“We wanted to make sure that no one would fall off the porch or down the stairs,” said Anthony. “Putting in new porch rails and gates gives them a lot of peace of mind within their home.”

Other repairs made include the following:

  • Electrical repairs
  • Installing ceiling fans
  • Replacing a window
  • Plumbing repairs
  • Fixing gaps in the foundation
  • Replacing missing floor tiles

Superintendent Jacob Ruchotzke, who served as the House Leader, appreciated the time getting to know some of the Pepper team that he typically doesn’t work with as well as partners from Applied Engineering Services. “It was challenging - trying to get all of these repairs done in a morning - but we had a great team and it was fun working side by side with them.”

At the end of the morning, Walker says she was overwhelmed by the kindness.

According to the homeowner, “Everyone who came to help was so kind to me and my sister. They didn’t make me feel needy and I could tell that they were giving back and helping from the heart!”

To learn more about Rebuilding Together’s work in the Midwest and across the country, visit

A team of almost 20 volunteers worked on this home located on the west side of Indianapolis repairing windows, fixing plumbing issues and making general repairs.