Union member volunteers provide the ‘pot of gold’ at Rainbow Village

It’s not always rainbows for Rainbow Village, a charitable organization that provides permanent, safe and affordable neighborhood homes for people struggling with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the greater St. Louis metro area.

Finding funds to support about 300 adults in almost 90 Rainbow Village homes in the metro area gets rough sometimes, considering the 501c3 charitable organization rehabs each of the homes for full accessibility and maintains the homes during the lifetime of the residents.

One day in May, however, Rainbow Village received a gift — a retired journeyman carpenter stopped by Rainbow Village and asked, “How can I help?”

Word got out, and a second retired carpenter came forward in June. That’s when the organization learned that if skilled Union tradesmen continued to volunteer, much of Rainbow Village’s financial burdens could be lightened.


“Volunteers like this are exceptionally valuable,” said Rainbow Village Executive Director Michael Rea. “The Carpenter volunteers built new stairs for a deck, and built the rough-in for a bathroom ahead of a new bathroom being installed. Having volunteers that can tackle projects for us, especially kitchens, bathrooms, and interior painting are invaluable.”

The cost of maintaining almost 90 homes for the fragile population served by Rainbow Village costs over $100,000 annually. Capital improvements add an additional $200,000 to that number.  Rea says the challenge is that they are constantly under the gun to provide more homes and often need to be inventive or find a better way to do it.

“We’re constantly growing, which puts stress on the finances,” Rea said. “We’re growing at both ends, enjoying a lot of success and are financially sound. But it always takes inventive ideas and finding a better way to do it, to move forward. That’s why we’re looking for volunteers.”


In the 1960s families of people with developmental disabilities were segregated, others lived at home with aging parents.

Rainbow Village gives people an opportunity to live in the communities rather than being institutionalized. All residents qualify for Medicaid funding for support services, and they collect SSI for room and board expenses.

Rea said that five full-time maintenance people take care of the majority of maintenance issues, but when funds are available, Rainbow Village contracts for capital improvements in kitchens, baths, flooring, flatwork, windows, lighting and accessibility features.


“We have so many projects, whether electrical, painting or minor plumbing issues, most of the time they’re not big projects and we’re flexible on time,” said Rea. “It would be so great for us to connect with some of the Local Unions to have an ongoing relationship, it would make it much easier to help the residents we serve.”

Rea said in November, Rainbow Village will be remodeling 11 houses, contracting with Paric Corp. Most of the work involves kitchens, bathrooms and floorings, cabinets and counter tops.

Rea added, “We do the work as fast as we can with the money we have, and we work with 19 social service agencies, but sometimes that isn’t enough money, so we reach out to the community.”


Rea said Rainbow Village maintains a running list of projects to be tackled on an ongoing basis. If you would like to volunteer to help Rainbow Village, contact Executive Director Michael Rea, 314-567-1522, ext. 207.

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