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 Lynsey Pipino, The Columbus Foundation
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New Social Enterprise Offers Home Repair Services

New Social Enterprise Offers Home Repair Services
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Nonprofits are no different than for-profit businesses when it comes to having to adjust to changing landscapes and evolving times.

Rebuilding Together Central Ohio (RTCO) has been helping disadvantaged populations with home repair since 1991. Its Safe at Home program offers emergency repairs and home modifications at no cost to low-income homeowners, with priority to seniors and individuals with physical disabilities.

But when the recession struck in 2008, things shifted.

“Rebuilding Together Central Ohio was the only owner-occupied housing support until the recession hit,” said Julie Smith, Executive Director. “Afterwards, when there were re-investment dollars through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a lot of housing programs started doing home repair; typically to flip houses, but some were edging into what we do. For the first time in our history, we had competition. We were competing for federal dollars we’d never had to compete for before.”

Faced with this new normal, Julie knew they needed to look at ways to raise money to continue to support RTCO’s programs and clients.

“Six years ago, we hadn’t heard of social enterprise,” Julie said. “But we knew if we’re going to have competition, we’re going to need new revenue sources,” she said.

Joining together with multiple partners as they explored the idea of social enterprise, RTCO came up with the idea for Mod Squad, a fee-based handyman service that could help boost revenue and bridge the funding gap they were experiencing.

Launched in August 2018, Mod Squad’s team of experienced home maintenance pros are bonded and insured. It offers a myriad of services, from installing grab bars, handrails, and ramps to replacing plumbing and electrical fixtures. Clients are billed hourly, with a rate that falls below what most contractors would charge for the same service.

“We take care of all kinds of things that people want done and either don’t have the time to do, have never had the skills to do, or can’t do any longer,” Julie said.

While she initially thought they would see mostly seniors utilizing the service, that hasn’t been the case, and clients of all ages have been requesting appointments.

“There have been so many people who have given good energy and support to this project.”

—JULIE SMITH

In May 2018, The Columbus Foundation awarded a $50,000 grant to RTCO from the Lois S. and H. Roy Chope Fund to support the Mod Squad. In addition to the Mod Squad, RTCO operates a social enterprise through its Tool Library, a collection of more than 200 different types of tools and over 4,000 individual hand and power tools.

Launched in 2016, it offers memberships for individuals ($40/year) and seniors ($20/year). Revenue raised through both social enterprises goes back into funding for Safe at Home to ensure RTCO can continue to offer free home repairs and modifications to those who need it most. Both of these ventures are helping RTCO stay true to its primary goal.

“Our mission is to help people live in safe and healthy housing,” Julie said.

Read more community stories like this one in the latest issue of NEXUS.

 

Better TogetherThe Columbus Foundation‘s crowdfunding platform, rallies individuals to work together to bring out the best in our community! Through Better Together, you can show love to our local nonprofits by donating toward their time-sensitive projects and programs. With new projects going up every month, you’re sure to see a cause that’s close to your heart, so be sure to stop in often to check them out!

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