Volunteers provide free plumbing repairs to homeowners in need – Post Bulletin

ROCHESTER — Tiny Nguyen is a full-time caretaker for her elderly parents. There isn’t enough time in the day for her to also repair the house she grew up in.

Nguyen’s father has Parkinson’s disease, lung disease, heart disease, digestive disease and endocrine disease. “I think there’s a few more,” she said. Her mother was diagnosed with dementia in 2016. The 45-year-old Nguyen had to quit her job as a financial analyst at IBM to care for her parents. Because of that, the family lives off the elderly parents’ Social Security checks. The money is never enough to sustain the family and take care of bills and house projects.

“I myself can’t handle all the bills and pay my bills. So I contacted the county and got into any programs that can help them,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen is just one homeowner that received free plumbing services on Saturday, March 26, 2022, as a part of the Water’s Off program. Three Rivers has teamed up with the Rochester Local 6 Plumbers and Pipefitters union for 26 years to put on the program that provides repairs with donated equipment and labor.

Three Rivers Community Action’s mission is to “address basic human needs of people in our service area, thereby improving the quality of life of the individual, family and community,” according to its website.

Sixteen volunteers gathered bright and early to head out to service 10 houses on Saturday. Lynette Engelhardt Stott, the energy programs coordinator at Three Rivers, put together the list of people to help.

Volunteers gather at the Rochester Local 6 Plumbers and Pipefitters union office before servicing homes on Saturday, March 26, 2022, in Rochester.

Abby Sharpe / Post Bulletin

Stott told volunteers that “the homes you’re serving today are folks who receive energy assistance” through a federal program.

“We’ve seen our application count just skyrocket,” Stott said. “Our application count increased by 1,200 today [compared to] this time last year.”

Three Rivers had one of the largest increases of applications in the state, at 30%. The homes serviced Saturday belong to elderly or disabled homeowners who don’t have the means to call a plumber anytime an issue arises.

“For you, they might be somewhat minor fixes,” Stott told the volunteers. “But for them, it’s a fix that they haven’t been able to do because they don’t have the money to call in a plumber.”

There are leaky faucets, damaged kitchen sinks, running toilets, broken garbage disposals and the faulty shower drain that a homeowner jerry-rigged with a screw to hold the stopper up to ensure the water drained.

In total, between $10,000 and $20,000 was donated in equipment and labor costs.

For homeowners that struggle to find help and are “used to being told no,” as Stott put it, the repairs and free labor are a heavy weight lifted off their shoulders.