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Rebuilding Together Long Island volunteer works on wheelchair ramps

Bob Wohlafka, a Rebuilding Together volunteer and a

Bob Wohlafka, a Rebuilding Together volunteer and a specialist at building wheelchair ramps, poses with a ramp he helped to build in East Meadow, Oct. 17, 2014. Photo Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

The year was 2003, it had been two years since Bob Wohlafka retired, and "it was time to look for something else to do."

So Wohlafka, who had been a computer programmer for a bank, logged on to VolunteerMatch.org, where he came across Rebuilding Together -- the nationwide charity that helps low-

income families, veterans, seniors, the disabled and those recovering from disasters repair their homes or make them more accessible. The group's mission sounded interesting, so he contacted the local chapter.

"I wasn't much for construction, but they said they would accept all levels of skills," recalled Wohlafka, who lives in East Farmingdale. "I said I would check it out and see what happens. The rest is history."

Since joining the nonprofit's volunteer roster, Wohlafka, now 68, has been a team captain -- a role that involves organizing volunteers, shopping for supplies and ordering materials -- on several projects and has developed a specialty in wheelchair ramps.

"It's one of the most physical jobs we do," he said. "I work on most of the wheelchair ramps because it's carpentry and it's outdoors. I'm always afraid when I work indoors that I'm going to break something valuable to the family. That's why I prefer outdoors."

Wohlafka puts in three- to seven-hour days, sometimes two or four days a week, helping the organization achieve its core mission: to help clients remain in a home that is healthy and safe and allows them to maintain their independence.

"It's a great set of rules to work by," Wohlafka said of Rebuilding Together's mission. "But I also enjoy being able to do this, helping other people; and the organization is helping me. I'll do this as long as I can."

VOLUNTEER WITH REBUILDING TOGETHER LONG ISLAND

Rebuilding Together Long Island is looking for volunteers with a "willingness to work and be happy in a joyous atmosphere," said Sol Goldstein, president of the local chapter.

Anyone 18 and older, with or without special skills, can volunteer for projects or help organize, inventory and maintain materials and supplies. Volunteers also are needed to pick up donated construction materials, assist with public relations and marketing and offer web design and graphic design skills.

Donors can also sponsor a project. "We have projects ongoing; the need is funding," Goldstein said.

To learn more, contact Rebuilding Together Long Island at 631-777-7894, or fill out an application form at rebuildingtogetherlongisland.org.

OTHER VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES

Lindenhurst residents Jen Mackie Aulino, Cristina Galante and Victoria Witchie-Boye founded the Lindenhurst-based nonprofit Adopt A House in the wake of superstorm Sandy in 2012. Since then, the group has spent $162,000 on new furniture, kitchen appliances, mini grants to pay off storm-related debts and provide other relief for affected families. It has also gutted houses, supplied 500 trees to replace landscaping and held workshops on house lifting, mold remediation and insurance claims.

"We're very active in the community," said Michele Insinga, the nonprofit's executive director and also a Lindenhurst resident. "We're looking for big donors. We definitely want to continue the mission. There are 700 families registered with us. We go from Sayville to Long Beach."

Contact: 631-867-2401; adoptahouse.org; or email Info@Adoptahouse.org.

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The Centereach-based Community Development Corporation of Long Island offers repair services, but in most cases there is a cost for them. The nonprofit has a deferred lien program for clients of modest means, depending on family size and income guidelines, and it also provides a loan option with below-market interest rates.

Contact: 631-471-1215; cdcli.org

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For more volunteer information and opportunities, contact the Long Island Volunteer Center at 516-564-5482; longislandvolunteercenter.org.

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