Alain Rahbari got to know a family who hired him to restore their antiques seven years ago. He worked with the couple and their two young children for years, going to their home and bringing their precious pieces to his Oviedo workshop for repair.
Suddenly, the couple’s marriage broke up, leaving the woman and her children without an income. She asked Rahbari to help her sell her antiques. The money eventually dried up and she struggled to find a job and pay her bills. She was able to stay afloat until her water was shut off. Rahbari said after that, he could not find the woman to help her. He searched the shelters but she was nowhere to be found.
“That’s when I realized that getting your water shut off is the last step before homelessness,” he said.
Rahbari began selling his restored antiques and donated items such as clothing at garage sales to raise money to pay the water bills of people like the woman who fell on hard times. He also tried raising money by teaching cooking classes (he’s a chef as well). But when the pandemic hit in 2020, the need far outweighed what he was able to raise.
Rahbari decided to start a 501(c)3 organization called Oviedo Helping Hand in January 2021. Now that he’s able to collect monetary donations, he’s raised more than $40,000 and helped 432 Oviedo utility customers as well as some customers in surrounding cities who were delinquent in their bills or in danger of having their water or power shut off.
On Monday night, the Oviedo City Council proclaimed Feb. 23 Alain Rahbari Day to honor his service to his fellow citizens.
“I’m hoping that will help more people,” he said of the proclamation. “I don’t consider myself something special. I’m just an instrument. The glory goes to God.”
He said he sometimes posts the stories of people who need help on the organization’s Facebook page and the community steps up to the plate. Recently, residents not only raised enough money to help keep a woman’s water from being shut off, someone also found her a job.
“Sometimes just $10 can save someone,” he said.
How to help
Learn more by visiting the Oviedo Helping Hand Facebook page or contact Rahbari by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.