The Sound You Never Want to Hear, But Are Grateful You Did

The piercing sound of your smoke detector goes off. Your bedroom is filling with smoke. You have two minutes to get out of your house before the smoke will impact your ability to breathe. Do you know how to exit your home? Do you have a working fire extinguisher within reach? Imagine the scenario without having a smoke detector.

Rebuilding Together Twin Cities’ Safe at Home Program is designed to prevent falls and ensure the safety of homes of residents with disabilities, 55 years and older. One of the quickest modifications we perform to make a home safer is to ensure that there are enough working smoke detectors in a home. This year, we are partnering with the American Red Cross serving the Twin Cities Area’s “Home Fire Campaign,” which is providing ten-year smoke detectors and safety education material at no cost to help prepare homeowners in the event of a fire.

As an AmeriCorps Project Coordinator, I speak to many homeowners that haven’t updated their smoke detectors in years or are unable to change the batteries. Some have fire extinguishers that are 20 plus years old. This leaves many residents vulnerable in the event of a home fire. I encourage everyone to make sure that they have working smoke detectors, an accessible fire extinguisher, and an escape plan. As a former Conservation Corps member who served on fire base camps and a survivor of a workplace fire, I know how quickly you must react when dealing with fire at any size. Although, the sound of an alarm is jarring and still startles me to this day, I am grateful for that tiny, round device.

For more information on smoke detectors and fire safety, please visit:

Author Krista Yamashita is currently serving as an AmeriCorps CapacityCorps member with Rebuilding Together Twin Cities.

Rebuilding Together Twin Cities’ Board of Directors Gives Back

We were thrilled to host our Board of Directors on March 19th as they helped a homeowner in need.  Our Board members spent the day tearing out a rotting deck, building a temporary deck and cleaning out the homeowner’s garage in preparation for a volunteer team that will finish this project next month.  Thank you to our Board for their hard work and commitment to helping homeowners in need in our community!

Staff Highlight: Ryan Karis, Program Manager

Why did you decide to become involved with Rebuilding Together?

I have worked for nonprofits and non-governmental organizations for most of my adult life, except for the last few years when I worked for myself as a General Contractor.  I spent six years at Koinonia Partners (the predecessor of Habitat for Humanity) and worked for them when Habitat for Humanity was formed.  I also spent more than 15 years working for Habitat for Humanity of the Twin Cities.  While I enjoyed owning my own business, I really missed helping people and doing something beyond just earning a living.  One day, I was at Menard’s picking up supplies for one of my projects when I saw a Rebuilding Together Twin Cities truck.  “What is Rebuilding Together?” I asked the person headed to the truck (Jessie Livingston, an AmeriCorps member serving with Rebuilding Together Twin Cities at the time).  That conversation led to another conversation with Rebuilding Together’s Program Director Tony Sjogren and the rest is history!

What’s your favorite part of your job?

I love completing a project and seeing the impact on the homeowner.  For example, we installed a wheelchair ramp for a recent amputee in Farmington who had basically been trapped in his home.  Every time he had to go to a doctor’s appointment or leave the home, three adults had to carry him out down the home’s exterior stairs.  When he could finally roll down the ramp that we built, there wasn’t a dry eye in the group!

What’s your favorite band (or food if you don’t like music)?

My wife is a very good cook of several different types of food.  We have four children, ages 34, 30, 27, and 20, and three of them are adopted from Korea.  When we first adopted our kids, we participated in a Korean Culture Camp that included cooking and eating authentic, traditional Korean dishes like Bulgogi.  Bulgogi has since become one of my favorite foods.  It’s thinly-sliced beef, marinated in a sauce of sesame oil, soy sauce and green onions, grilled, and then wrapped in a leaf of lettuce or a sheet of dried seaweed with a little rice and a touch of kimchee.

Is there anything people might be surprised to know about you?

I had a mid-career break from working in construction by working for an international refugee resettlement organization for several years.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’ve learned a lot through my international travel and work, and I’ve realized that being of service as a volunteer is very important.  You can make a positive impact in your home town or halfway across the world.  Be open to giving of yourself and spend time volunteering.

Donate to Rebuilding Together through Thrivent Choice®

We are pleased to announce that we have been approved to participate in Thrivent Financial’s Thrivent Choice® program.  By directing Choice Dollars®, eligible Thrivent members can recommend which nonprofit organizations they feel should receive charitable grant funding from Thrivent. If you are an eligible member, please consider us when directing Choice Dollars.

To learn more about Thrivent Choice, visit Or call Thrivent at 800-847-4836, and say “Thrivent Choice” when prompted.