How Our Non-Profit Came to Light
Over the last decade, Michael Rubino has built a successful remediation company and helped over 1,000 families heal their homes from toxic mold and water damage. His clients tended to have two things in common: their health was severely impacted by mold exposure, and they were failed by previous remediation efforts. By applying a scientific understanding of microbial contamination, he was able to create alternative remediation protocols that exceeded common and often unregulated industry practices and allowed his clients to finally begin to heal.
He quickly realized that while he could try to help as many clients as possible every year, the best way to help improve indoor air quality worldwide was to share his wealth of knowledge with others so that anyone could create a safe and healthy home. What resulted was the groundbreaking book, The Mold Medic, which serves as a guide to mold remediation and improving indoor air quality.
Still, Rubino felt compelled to do more. He wanted to create a foundation that would have worldwide implications and begin to tackle mold and water damage on multiple fronts. He envisioned a foundation that would raise awareness around the dangers of water damaged buildings and advocate for the implementation of thorough and rigorous practices and standards. He wanted a foundation that would fund clinical research around the impact from water damage buildings and provide the needed financial assistance to those struggling to afford the costly interventions needed to safely rid a home of mold and water damage. He wanted a foundation that would tackle two of the major obstacles in bringing about meaningful change: the lack of awareness and the lack of funding.
By May 2020, Rubino had the idea and legal paperwork in place to start a nonprofit, but he still needed likeminded people to help him create and execute a foundation. The connections and events that followed can only be described as serendipitous.
In July of that same year, the Columbus Dispatch wrote an article about fellow Ohioan, Brandon Chappo. Unbeknownst to Chappo, his newly renovated apartment was filled with toxic mold, most of which was hidden. Doctors were left baffled by the numerous symptoms that seemed to plague the young Ohio native who had previously been a healthy 31-year-old at the prime as his life. His symptoms were numerous and included headaches, brain fog, and severe fatigue. As an air traffic controller, Chappo relied heavily on his ability to process information quickly and make split second decisions.
Chappo’s deteriorating health impacted every aspect of his life and the lack of answers from numerous tests and over a dozen doctors and specialists took its toll. It wasn’t until a physician in Cleveland asked about his living arrangements and the events that coincided with his decline in health did he begin to make the connection between his symptoms and his home. While the apartment had some signs of water damage, it was also harboring large amounts of hidden, toxic mold. He made the decision to leave that day and hasn’t looked back. The path to healing took time but with the support of his friends and family, Chappo was slowly able to put his life back together. It was at that point he decided that something must be done to protect the residents of Ohio. Thus began his crusade to change Ohio legislation.
Little did he know that getting the attention of local news outlets or legislators would prove to be a rather frustrating endeavor. Chappo, who was living with family at this point, contacted his new representative, Rep Joe Miller, D-Amherst. Initially, it was Samantha Rocco, Miller’s legislative aid, who met with Brandon. Coincidentally, she had dealt with mold in off campus housing as a college student and was already aware of the negative health impact caused by water damage. She quickly set up a meeting between Miler and Chappo and together they worked to create and bring H.B. 251, The Ohio Safe Indoor Act to the floor.
By August, The Columbus Dispatch story caught the attention of Michael Rubino. Rubino contacted Chappo with a request to talk about their shared passion around mold, water damage, and indoor air quality. It became clear that the two not only shared a passion but had similar aspirations for reform.
It was after this initial call between Rubino and Chappo, that they decided to join Chappo’s passion for legislative reform with Rubino’s desire to help as many people as he could lead healthier lives by improving indoor air quality.
By October, Brandon was full force with his advocacy work for H.B. 251 and trying to garner support for on online petition urging the federal government to bring about meaningful reform at the federal level. He shared his petitions in several of the ever-growing Facebook groups dedicated to those who are impacted by mold and water damage. One of these happened to be a group created by Kendra Seymour earlier that year.
Kendra Seymour had her life turned upside down in 2011 after her and her husband moved into a recently renovated home. It was only after living in the home for a few months did they begin to realize just how haphazardly their new home had been updated. As they tackled various problems, several of them related to mold and water damage, they did not realize at the time that the licensed contractors and licensed remediators they hired only had a minimal understanding about dealing with water damage safely. This was partially the result of the minimal regulation and certification requirements in the state of Virginia. Over the next four years, she and her husband addressed various issues in the home and during that time welcome two children to the family. It was shortly after the birth of her second child that yet another problem area made itself known – a tiny stain in the kitchen ceiling.
In an attempt to protect the health of her toddler and baby, she wanted to ensure that any work done to the home reflected the safest possible standards. Her children were already experiencing numerous health issues that were dismissed or easily explained away by doctors. Through dumb luck, she contacted a remediation company who was known for doing honest and quality work. It was this remediation company that suggested she first hire an Indoor Environmental Professional to independently assess her home. It was only then did she begin to realize how improperly previous projects and remediations had been handled. After five longs years and a final and extensive remediation, they rid the home of any remaining issues. Unfortunately, those five years came at great cost to their financial, physical, and emotional health. These hard lessons learned would latter fuel her passion for helping others avoid some of mistakes her family had made along the way.
Seymour spent the next two years regaining her family’s health and helping other people in online communities find answers. She was frustrated and angry by the lack of consistent and meaningful regulations or standards around identifying and removing mold and water damage safely. Even many of the professionals she dealt with seemed to be operating from outdated or inaccurate assumptions around mold and water damage. She became known for her research and became vocal in various mold related Facebook groups in hopes that she could help others avoid the same costly and potentially unsafe mistakes that she had made.
Eventually, she created her own Facebook group with a focus on providing others with a place to start their own research and learn to become their own advocate. It was there that she noticed a post by Brandon Chappo asking for support on his petition to the federal government. Seymour recognized his name from the Columbus Dispatch article she had read the month before and messaged Chappo. He responded and offered to set up a meeting with her to discuss his experience getting H.B. 251 drafted. What was supposed to be a quick 30-minute meeting lasted almost three hours and they quickly realized they shared a passion for raising awareness and bringing about change regarding how mold and water damage is addressed in the United States. As the phone call ended, they promised to keep in touch on their own individual initiatives.
Later that week, Chappo and Rubino had a second meeting to begin discussing details for a nonprofit foundation. Chappo mentioned the conversation he had with the equally passionate Seymour. Rubino and Chappo decided to invite her to join them on a quick introductory phone call. Once again, a 30-minute call turned into a 2 1/2-hour conversation.
Rubino and Chappo subsequently asked Seymour to take part in determining what the foundation would look like and how its mission would be executed. What resulted was a combination of each of their unique skills sets and desires- Rubino’s vision and expertise, Chappo’s passion for legislative reform, and Seymour’s desire to help other people make safer and well-informed decisions. Their discussions resulted in the creation of Change the Air’s mission and objectives. Brian Karr and Correy Levy from Yes We Inspect would later round out the foundation’s board and bring with them an immense amount of expertise, experience, and passion for working with those impacted by mold and water damage.
Change the Air officially launched in 2022 with the mission to change the world by changing the air that we breathe.
Columbus Dispatch Article
Press Release H.B. 251