Projects & Improvements

New Life for an Old House

updated May 5, 2019
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Have you ever driven by a run-down, abandoned house and thought what a shame it is that such a lovely home is going to waste? This is the story of how one couple purchased an abandoned home and, with a lot of help from generous friends and neighbors, gave it a completely new lease on life.

The couple in question are the parents of our lovely and talented video director, Rebecca Blumhagen. Here’s more info from Rebecca:

A few years ago my parents bought a foreclosed house and totally renovated it, with the help of friends, neighbors, and volunteers.

They then turned it into something called a “transitional home” for a refugee family — a place for them to live at minimal rent for their first year in America, while they got their feet on the ground.

Know of any similar projects that are happening in your area? Please share them in the comments! And for those of you who might be interested in helping in a similar way, here are some more details:

They worked with an organization called Lutheran Services of Iowa to help find the right family. After this family moves into a permanent home, a new refugee family will be placed there. There are many types of “transitional homes” that exist for vulnerable people in need of stable housing to get on their feet (including women and children affected by substance abuse, etc, etc.). Iowa is one of a few states who have officially volunteered to be a refugee resettlement community, so there are lots of organizations there that mobilize volunteers and special projects like this one. But every state has a Bureau of Refugee Services, and if you just call them and ask what they need help with, they will let you know what household items/clothes they need or put you to work!

When I was a kid my mom did just that and they said what they needed most was people just to be friends, and help newly arrived refugees practice English. We spent a lot of time as a family drinking Croatian coffee, trying Ecuadorian lasagna, etc etc. and the experience has changed all of our lives. I would highly recommend it if you are looking for a way to volunteer!

And if you’re interested in rebuilding a house, email me (at and I will gladly pass on your email to my parents, who would love to help someone else do the same thing they did. It’s been a terrific experience for everyone. Thanks guys and don’t hesitate to ask more questions!!

• The Stars: I am very thankful to Lisa and Greg Blumhagen, Abrehat Gebremariam, Embaba, Yodit and Tseneat Gebregzaber, and Semere Mahari for allowing me to tell a little bit of their story. (They were only okay with it when I explained to them that it might be an inspiration to other people, because it’s a pretty amazing idea.)

• The Music: This is an instrumental version of one of my favorite songs off the album “Honest Mistakes” by Pete Miser – the title song, “Honest Mistakes”. The full version is available for listen and purchase here.

• More Videos: Go To Video Channel

• Submissions Welcome: Are you a Maker? Do you have great how-to’s and tips to share? Do you have a winning personality or are you just a great character? Tell us here and we’ll consider sending our video team to tape you for the site.

(Re-edited from a post originally published 09.26.12 – N.M.)