LONG BEACH -- Beatrice Crawford smiles broadly when she's told her house will soon have new wheelchair ramps that will make it easier for her to get outside and enjoy nice weather.

"That's beautiful," she said.

Crawford is just one of the people who will be given help, aid and smiles throughout Long Beach and around the country today during Make A Difference Day.

Created by USA Weekend Magazine, the event is a collaborative effort billed as the nation's largest day of service, taking place on the fourth Saturday of October.

Locally, Rebuilding Together Long Beach has been the biggest player in the annual event.

The organization formally engages in projects twice a year - in October during Make A Difference Day and in April as part of National Rebuilding Day. The national Rebuilding Together organization has 200 affiliates and says that through 2011 it had used a total of 2.5million volunteers working 30million hours to rehabilitate more than 100,000 houses and deliver $1 billion in market value.

The Long Beach branch has partnered with thousands of volunteers during its 20 years and has worked on more than 260 homes and community facilities with an estimated reconstruction value of more than $4.2million.

Today upwards of 100 volunteers from California State University, which has partnered for more than a decade with Rebuilding Together, will help at projects such as the one at the Crawford home.


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Like most of Rebuilding Together's clients, Crawford, who has lived in her Westside home for 40 years, is elderly and disabled.

She suffers from Alzheimer's disease and diabetes and survives on her disability check of $1,080 per month and help provided by her grandson, Douglas Crawford.

Rebuilding Together will paint her house, clean out her cluttered backyard, for which she was cited by City Code Enforcement, build a fence in her backyard, trim trees and install a pair of wheelchair ramps. The value of the project with supplies and labor is $3,900.

"We really don't have the money," Douglas Crawford said of the repairs being provided. "This is very helpful."

The Crawford home is one of 19 projects planned by Rebuilding Together Long Beach.

In the Friendly Village mobile home park in North Long Beach, 15 homes will be worked on. Four will be painted, several will have roof work and one will have the subfloor replaced. Others will be power- washed, and other general fixes will be made.

Although the two service days are the organization's official events, volunteers put in hundreds of hours not only screening and soliciting clients, but also making other improvements and upgrades off the books.

Rebuilding Together isn't the only organization providing service today, just the most visible.

A number of nonprofit agencies are so burdened with their regular activities that Make A Difference Day has fallen off the calendar.

"We make a difference every day," said Vanessa Romain of Catholic Charities, which will play host to trick-or-treating event for kids from 1-6 p.m. Saturday at Admiral Kidd Park. 2125 Santa Fe Ave.

Rick Rackers will be clothing hundreds of Signal Hill school kids with uniforms, backpacks and school supplies as part of its annual Operation School Bell effort.

As Crawford is told about the project at her home, she smiles again.

"Is it free?" she asked.

When told it is, she lets out a contented sigh.

"You can hardly breathe for free," she said.


More information on Rebuilding Together Long Beach and its services is available by email at info@rtlb.org, or by phone 562-590-3802.
Greg.mellen@presstelegram.com, 562-714-2093, http://twitter.com/gregmellen