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Rebuilding Off The Ice

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues
Ruthie Gibson sits on her front porch as volunteers repair her North St. Louis home (Photo courtesy of Rebuilding Together - St. Louis).
The word “rebuild” has often been used to describe efforts by Blues President John Davidson to get the Blues back amongst the NHL’s most elite teams. But context is everything, and on Apr. 28, the word took on an entirely different meaning.

Blues goaltender Manny Legace and former players Bruce Affleck and Dwight Schofield traded their hockey sticks for hammers to help restore and rebuild the home of Ruthie Gibson, a 73-year old widow living in North St. Louis.

“I’m just trying to do my part,” Legace said. “I’m not trying to be anything special. (Ownership) has supported me all year and (I’m) just trying to give back a little. It’s not much, but I’m trying.”

For Legace, giving a little bit of his time may not seem like a big deal, but it made a world of difference for Gibson, whose home was in desperate need of repairs.

Just over a year ago, Gibson contacted Rebuilding Together – St. Louis, an organization designed to make improvements to the homes and communities of low-income families in the greater St. Louis area. Gibson’s name was added to the list of people who qualified for assistance.

Three weeks before the project was set to begin, a home inspector visited the Gibson house and made a list of important necessary repairs. The list was then turned over to Rebuilding Together – St. Louis, who divided up the available money and made the purchasing of supplies and materials possible.

“When we got this Rebuilding Together, this was the best thing I could have gotten,” Gibson said. “It was a good thing.”


Ruthie Gibson:
rebuilding day: 327kb
history of her house: 132kb

Manny Legace:
Blues in the community: 447kb

John Hopkins:
Blues' helpfulness: 298kb
Much like a pick-up game of street hockey, the volunteers that showed up brought with them a wide variety of talent and skill. Some dealt with plumbing issues while others worked with electrical wire. Legace spent some time cutting and laying tile in Gibson’s bathroom, while others simply took a broom and helped sweep up sawdust.

“I’ve never had so much company in my life,” Gibson said of the volunteers. “I’d never seen so many workers in one day.”

Led by House Captain John Hopkins, the 20-plus volunteers worked for more than eight hours to improve Gibson’s living conditions. The crew managed to replace a light fixture in Gibson’s kitchen and install a new sink, countertop and cabinets. In addition, they replaced rotting wood in the bathroom floor with new wood, installed new water supply lines and repaired a shaky front porch rail.

Because Gibson suffers from a heart condition that makes it difficult for her to breathe, one of the top priorities in improving her home involved removing the carpet and replacing it with laminate flooring, a task that was completed before the volunteers left for the evening.

“I’m breathing good now, so I know it’s a wonderful home,” Gibson said. “When I got that carpet off my floor and get all that out of there, I can breathe better. It’s a wonderful feeling. It’s like a light feeling to me, like I’m on air and I haven’t come down yet.”

Retired player Bruce Affleck helped get the Blues involved in the Gibson house project (Photo courtesy of Rebuilding Together - St. Louis).
It’s comments like these that makes Hopkins feel good about the work he’s doing.

An industrial arts teacher by day, Hopkins got involved with Rebuilding Together – St. Louis three years ago. As a house captain, he is responsible for purchasing materials and delegating duties to the volunteers to ensure that the most important work gets completed.

“(Rebuilding Together – St. Louis) is a worthwhile organization,” Hopkins said. “There are a lot of good people there and they’re doing a lot of good things for the community and really helping out low income people that don’t have the resources to help themselves. It’s something I’d recommend for everybody. You’d be surprised how much it helps you as well as it helps somebody else.

“The best part was the smile on her face, the big thanks and knowing that I could actually help make somebody else’s life a little bit easier and a little better,” Hopkins added.

For Gibson, the house she’s lived in for more than 40 years suddenly was a lot more comfortable. The small house was home for herself, her husband of 37 years and the seven children that called her ‘mom.’

Gibson was speechless after the work was completed.

“I’m very very happy with the work that they’ve done,” she said. “I’m so happy, words won’t explain it. Thing about it is, those people came in and didn’t know anything about me. It was a wonderful day.”

Legace was put to work as soon as he arrived, so when it came to socializing with Gibson, he didn’t get to spend much time talking with her. He did, however, have time to see that the work the volunteers accomplished had completely brightened her day.

“She had a big, ear-to-ear smile the whole day,” Legace said. “Every time I’d walk by her, she had a big grin on her face. That’s credit in itself. You don’t need publicity, you don’t need the TV cameras there. You just need to see her smiling, and that was worth the few hours that we put in during the day.”
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