Rebuilding Together Miami-Dade helps repair disabled man's home.

A nonprofit fixes the home of a disabled man who couldn't afford repairs.

By Christian Erazo - The Miami Herald

A disabled man is praising the kindness of strangers who volunteered to fix up his dilapidated home in Coral Gables near Coconut Grove.

Volunteers from the nonprofit Rebuilding Together Miami stepped in to replace Tyrone Borden's leaky toilet, install handicapped bars in the shower and replace exterior baseboards. Meanwhile, University of Miami volunteers painted the house and pressure cleaned. All repairs were done free of charge.

The repairs were a blessing for Borden, 52, who was unaware of the program a month ago.

``I didn't think people did things free of charge,'' he said. ``I'm grateful for the Rebuilding Together program because a lot of times you don't find people to volunteer to do things in your home for you. Everybody wants to charge. It's always about money.''

Borden and his family have suffered several setbacks in the past 10 years. From orthopedic infections to kidney disease, kidney failure and a rare connective tissue disease, both Borden and his wife, Patricia, have been left disabled and their daughter sick. The Bordens have been unable to work and are forced to collect disability checks.

Their low income and high medication costs have made it difficult for the Bordens to keep maintaining their home -- until they got help from Rebuilding Together Miami.

``I didn't think anybody really cared -- that's the way you get after a while,'' Borden said. ``You learn you got to do things for yourself.''

Someone did care, though.

About a month ago, one of his neighbors called James McCants, director of community affairs for Rebuilding Together Miami and spoke about the family's struggles. McCants contacted Borden to tell him that his group wanted to help.

``I was like, `For real? You're serious?' '' Borden said. ``These people don't have to do what they do.''

But a month later, the home's repairs were under way.

Borden, who grew up in Coconut Grove, now feels he will be able to keep his house that his family has lived in for the past 20 years.

He had worried that he would lose it because he couldn't afford its upkeep. He said his struggles began in 1999 when he had a sore at the bottom of his right foot that had swollen, leaving him unable to walk. After several surgeries, Borden had no choice but to leave his job with the city of Coral Gables and go on retirement disability.

Soon after, his wife took ill and also had to retire on disability, while their daughter, Tynikia, 29, contracted a rare tissue disorder.

With little to no income coming in and spending more than $1,000 for medication, the family has struggled to stay afloat.

``We're making it,'' Borden said. ``When I was young, I didn't think I would have these problems when I got older, but you never can prepare for it. You learn to take it in stride and deal with life day by day.''

Volunteers said they were glad to help the family out.

University of Miami student Hanzala Siddiq, 18, views volunteering to help the Bordens as an opportunity to give back.

``We've all been doing these things since high school,'' Siddiq said. ``It's our turn to give back. . . . This city is a great city, people are great and we should help out.''

``This [Rebuilding Together Miami] program is a wonderful thing, for not just this community, but for all communities,'' Borden added. ``Everyone needs help.''

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