Yachad Helps Families Stay Warm This Winter

January 14th, 2015

“A Home for the Holidays”

Gives Yachad Families A Special Holiday Gift

Yachad’s “A Home for the Holidays” program

is coming to a close just in time for the winter weather.

Some great work was done that we’d like to share with you:

(A handrail on these wooden stairs made for a safer holiday)

A few days before Christmas, our Handy Mensch team installed a custom handrail in a family home. Before, the steep and slippery wooden stairs were dangerous for the toddler and new baby in the family. Thank you to our Handy Mensch for giving the gift of safety and security just in time for the holidays.

With the help of our many partners and volunteers over the last few months, we replaced kitchen appliances, fixed furnaces, replaced drywall, updated electricity and plumbing, and repaired leaking roofs, making sure that our homeowners would have a safe and secure home this winter.

Sukkot in Spring is almost here!

Although it doesn’t feel like Spring yet, we will welcome our “Sukkot in Spring” homeowners before you know it! “Sukkot in Spring” is a time for the entire community to get involved. If you’d like to join in on a meaningful project this spring, sign up to volunteer today!

We’ll leave you with a winter tip from Robin Renner, our Construction Manager:

Winter Warm Up Tip #1: Insulate with shower curtains! Heavy curtains are great at insulating windows, but are expensive. Try pinning a cheap shower curtain to the inside of your existing curtains to make a quick and easy draft blocker. Close at night, but open during the day so the sun can help warm the room.

Stay warm and drink hot cocoa,

The Yachad Staff
Audrey, Mitch, Robin, and Kaety

Meet Mitch!

December 2nd, 2014

We welcome Mitch Liebeskind:

Hello all,

My name is Mitch Liebeskind and I am the new Program and Outreach Coordinator here at Yachad. I am excited to meet many of you and create real change in the city I was born in and in the lives of our homeowners.

From a young age the synagogue congregation I grew up, placed me on a path of, as Rabbi Heschel said, “praying with my feet.” Yachad is a wonderful opportunity for all of us to pray with our feet, come together to better communities in our city, and so many lives within it. Through the work of our partners, volunteers, community members, and homeowners, Yachad is able to move forward to the better world we all know is out there. I am excited to take the next steps with you.

I am a graduate of The University of Maryland and came to Yachad from the BBYO world. I love history, baseball, exploring new restaurants, and city life. When we meet, please let me know where you think the turning point was of World War I, why you think the DH has no place in the game, or where your favorite tacos are in the city. And don’t worry I don’t wear a tuxedo and bow tie when I paint.

I can be reached at 202.296.8563 or mitch@yachad-dc.org.

The Bash 2014: Making a Positive Impact Together

November 21st, 2014

The Community Builders Bash 2014

“The Community Builders Bash is a chance for me to network with my professional cohorts, celebrate the life of a community leader and raise funds for Yachad to ensure that the great work we do can continue.”

–Sam Hollman, The JBG Companies, Financial Analyst, Acquisition

This year’s Community Builders Bash celebrated Irma Poretsky…

Thank you Irma for all you have done, what you will continue to do, and for being the amazing community leader that you are!

An additional thank you to all who attended the Community Builders Bash and helped celebrate our volunteers–including but not limited to synagogues who have been working with Yachad for 20 years and Hillels who are just beginning this meaningful partnership.

We appreciate your hard work and continued support.

Thank you for helping us celebrate your commitment to making a positive impact together!

The following vendors helped Yachad make the night meaningful, delicious, and beautiful! THANK YOU!

Katzen Arts Center at American University, Rickie Niceta at Design Cuisine, Frost Lighting, Amaryllis Florist, Ace Beverage, Georgetown Cupcake, Print1, Epstein Creative, KRPR, the photogrpahy of Sue Dorfman, Oxman Studios, and event photography by Nygel Brown.

Want more pictures from the night?

Check the Facebook album or send us an email for your group photo. We’ll be happy to send them your way!

It was great seeing you at The Bash.

–The Yachad Family

On your marks, get set, go!

September 16th, 2014

On your marks, get set, go! Yachad runs a marathon, not a sprint.

Hello everyone.  I’m Kaety, Yachad’s newest AVODAH Corps Member.  I’ll be a part of the Yachad team for the next year and am so looking forward to doing my part in building happy and safe homes and connecting with all of you who support our work.

Nearing the end of my first month here, I have a pretty good understanding of how things work.   What stands out the most to me is that what we do at Yachad is like running a marathon–let me expand on this.  We train all year long by taking applications, getting to know our homeowners, and building relationships.  We also stay focused on long term results, maintain a steady pace, and realize that winning the race isn’t dependent on how fast we can sprint through projects, but on the strong work and effort that we put in from the starting line all the way to the end, when we can burst through the finish line tape and close a home that we feel good about.

The last few weeks, we’ve been prepping for our marathon with a strong start and our long term goals in mind.  We’ve even started picking up speed along the way with our Fall program, ‘A Home for the Holidays.’  Highlights include the addition of a new AVODAH Corps Member (me!), our Homeowners Workshops getting started, and our excitement about the annual Community Builders Bash that is coming up soon.  With these projects starting up strong, I’d say we’re more than ready to ‘run’ with what we’ve got!

Homeowners Workshops

Past homeowner from Sukkot in Spring 2013, Crystal Jones, speaks about her own experience with the program.

The past two Sundays we’ve come together at the MLK Memorial Library for our Homeowners Workshop.  The workshop brought out 8 of our families and 17 people all together.  We met the families over snacks and prepared them for the work we will be doing together throughout the next few months.  Everyone enjoyed getting to know each other and the grandchildren who tagged along even got to play some games together in the children’s library.  These homeowners will be a part of our ‘Home for the Holidays’ program.  The workshops guarantee that our partnership and the repairs made to homes will be successful and lasting, and also offer the tools for homeowners to actively maintain these repairs.  In all, there will be three workshops that the ‘Home for the Holidays’ families will attend. We’re looking forward to next week’s workshop!

We’re getting excited about the Community Builders Bash–and hope you are too!

Mark your calendars: the Community Builders Bash will be Sunday, November 9th!
Every year, Yachad celebrates the accomplishments and dedication of a local leader who embodies the spirit of “community building” with the Rabbi Joseph P. Weinberg Community Builders Award.  The award is named for a devoted spiritual leader and one of the original Yachad Founders.  This celebration is a chance to honor the achievements of a community leader and come together as a community of real estate and building professionals, nonprofit leaders, community activists and supporters of Yachad to raise funds for Yachad’s programming.

This year, we will honor Irma Poretsky with the Rabbi Joseph P. Weinberg 2014 Community Builder Award.  Two years ago, Irma launched Yachad’s Neighbor to Neighbor Initiative which in its first year raised $100,000 to repair many of Yachad’s homes.  Her own gift went to renovate a home in Anacostia to make it fully accessible for the homeowner who had suffered a debilitating incident. When it was time to celebrate the project’s completion, Irma joined the backyard barbeque party on a muggy August afternoon to help cut the ribbon.  We want to acknowledge Irma for her compassion and philanthropic generosity, which she notes is motivated by her experience of coming from very humble beginnings.  Irma has been a large part of Yachad’s work since her husband Lester Porestsky z”l, first served on the Board of Directors a decade ago.

We will also present special honors to five synagogues and their leaders who have partnered with Yachad as part of Sukkot in Spring for the past 20 years.  We also welcome and acknowledge Hillel leaders at area universities who are the latest new partners with Yachad.

Adas Israel Congregation: Joel Fishman, Edward Kopf, Jerry Levine; Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation: Jayme Epstein, Julie Farkas, Rebecca Farkas, Hope Gleicher, Alan Kanner, Louis Tenenbaum; Temple Micah: Roberta Goren, Rochelle and Edward Grossman, Douglas Meyer, William Page; Temple Rodef Shalom: John Huennekens, David Lawrence, Russ Roseman, Curt Sandler; Washington Hebrew Congregation: Rabbi Aaron Miller; American University: Jason Benkendorf, Erine Jones-Avni; University of Maryland: Amy Weiss; Georgetown University: Rabbi Rachel Gartner; George Washington University: Rabbi Yoni Kaiser-Blueth, Nicole Hollander.

We thank all of these volunteers for their meaningful contribution to Yachad’s work.  We can’t wait to celebrate with you all at the November 9th Community Builders Bash.

We’re putting on our running shoes

The staff here have all put on their running shoes and we’re ready to start this marathon the Yachad way, keeping you updated and involved along the run.  We’re looking forward to a meaningful season full of rebuilding!

With a smile,

Kaety and the Yachad team

Reflecting on Ramp it Up!

July 30th, 2014

This year’s Ramp it Up! participants contributed reflections about their time building a ramp and what they learned from the experience. Ramper Isaac Goldman participated in this year’s Ramp it Up! for his second summer, and shared his thoughtful essay on how the experience impacted him. Take a look at his reflection below:

“Ramp it Up” has been a fantastic part of my summers the past two years. The first year I did not know what to expect. I came in knowing that it was a construction project but I did not know about the long hours of demanding work in the heat. The service project both last year and this year gave me a fun workout in the sun and a good amount of community service hours. However, this year’s project was last year’s project on steroids. There were at least double the amount of holes to dig, which means double the cement, and each day consistently reached the high 90’s. This overwhelming challenge of digging holes and working outside in major heat gave me the opportunity to find out more about myself, more about working on a construction project in the heat of summer, and more about Yachad’s amazing work.

The most important thing I learned through Yachad’s Ramp It Up project this year was that in order to reach a goal you need to work with the people around you. Nobody could have built a ramp by themselves and in order for the project to move along each day, each camper needed to help out. One particular day, I was tired from a baseball game the past night and I needed help from a fellow camper to mix cement. I put aside my pride and asked him very politely and he responded with an emphatic “Yes, I would love to.” Through that small interaction, I learned about myself that I should never shy away from asking someone for help because just that small action of helping me mix cement, expedited the whole process and the other camper and I realized how efficient we were.

Secondly, I do not work on a construction site very often, as my carpentry skills showed, so I learned a lot about hammering, drilling, and doing anything necessary to help out to reach a final goal. Some days I provided motivational support because I knew I could not dig well and some days I was very involved: mixing up cement to put in the holes. Both my friend and I found out the best way to mix cement and put it in the hole so that we were the most time efficient. I had not learned the skill before and though I do not use it much in daily life, it was very useful on the project.

Lastly, through the service project, I was able to learn more about the important work that Yachad does. In the education sessions during lunch, we discussed poverty in DC and Sarah mentioned the work that Yachad does in order to try and eliminate some of the poverty. So, to work on a project, knowing that I am a part of an incredible organization trying to help out people with physical disabilities was a key part of the experience. Also being able to see a member of the community was moving because she was so thankful that we were helping out. She had seen the struggle that the disabled people had gone through and she could not have appreciated our work more.

Doing ordinary community service such as packing lunches is not the same meaningful experience that Yachad provides. Through both years of work, I learned many things about Yachad and to participate in Yachad’s Ramp It Up project twice encouraged me to continue to help out in my community.

Holey Moley: Participants in Ramp it Up! 2014 Build a Beautiful Accessibility Ramp for Local Community Center

July 17th, 2014

Two weeks, twenty-two teens, power tools, lots of hot sun… and one accessibility ramp!

High school teens volunteering in this summer’s Ramp it Up! program braved heat and humidity to build a beautiful, sturdy ramp for Rising Sun Baptist Church’s community center in Northeast, DC. The center provides free food, clothing, HIV/AIDS counseling, services for children with incarcerated parents, and other services to the community. However, due to the steps in front and back of the center, there were community members unable to access services. One family had a daughter who would wait outside in a wheelchair as the rest of the family entered the building. Now, this individual and many others will have the opportunity to participate fully as members of the community.

The students in the first session of camp did foundation work to provide a solid base for the ramp. They worked extremely hard digging holes for the ramp footings, mixing and pouring cement, and beginning carpentry work. The second session of rampers picked up where they left off with sawing, hammering, drilling, and other carpentry work that built the structure of the ramp from porch to ground. Rampers completed the work with enthusiasm and dedication, even in the heat of ninety-degree days, and were always eager to help out their peers and work as a team to get the job done.

At the end of two weeks of hard work, there was a new, beautiful ramp at the center. A special thank you goes out to the rampers whose work made the ramp possible, as well as construction manager Roy Thillberg of Loudoun Contracting, who expertly instructed the students along with his assistant, Jose.

Here is a letter Pastor Mitchell of Rising Sun Baptist Church wrote to express his appreciation for the ramp:

Dear Ms. Lyon:

We want to thank you, once again, for the service that Yachad has rendered to us to further our ministry. Through your Summer Camp, a ramp was built on our adjoining property — a house used to provide free food, clothing, HIV and AID services and social activities for children in the area whom we sponsor on behalf of their incarcerated parent(s). Some of these individuals are wheelchair bound and have been unable to access our services. Now, with the help of Yachad, these services are available to all.

I am extremely proud and grateful to be associated with you and this wonderful organization. Yachad embodies the qualities that we strive to demonstrate in our ministry — a G-dly love, hope, community and unity. I pray G-d’s continued blessings on your varied endeavors and projects.

Also, please convey our deep appreciation to Lindsey for her coordinative efforts, to Sarah for her hands-on, day-to-day presence at the site, to Roy and his assistant Jose for their time and professional skills and talents and, of course, to the young men who volunteered and gave of themselves this summer to build for others. This collaborative effort yielded a bountiful harvest and a beautiful ramp.

Rev. Marlow L. Mitchell

No More Pots and Pans: Reflecting on Sukkot in Spring 2014

July 14th, 2014

The fireflies, ice cream cones, and red, white, and blue indicate that we’re already well into summer. Some nice summer relaxation by the pool wouldn’t be complete without reflection on what’s been accomplished in the last few months. So, dive in to learn more about the huge amount of work completed this past Sukkot in Spring. It’s hard to believe what skilled professionals, many dedicated volunteers, and a paintbrush or two can do to transform a home.

This Sukkot in Spring…

286 volunteers from 23 volunteer groups donated 1,500 hours of service…

To transform 14 houses and 1 community center

And change the lives of 78 people.

Recently, there was a heavy rain, and Mrs. Edwards yelled downstairs to her husband to bring up some pots and pans to cover up the leaks. Then she stopped, laughed, and realized that she no longer needs to bring out the pots and pans when it rains. Instead, she put her energy into inviting friends and family over for a 4th of July barbecue for the first time. This mother of many, who has spent her life working and raising seven children and twenty-one grandchildren, now wakes up on Mother’s Day to a yard filled with roses, patched walls, and working plumbing in the bathroom.

The transformation of her home has even inspired neighbors to fix up their own homes and stop by the street to admire the appearance of her home. Her grandchildren have commented on the brand new walls and state of the house in which they live, and have eagerly played in the fresh grass in the yard. Clearly, the impact of the work completed in the home has been dramatic and far-reaching.

How was the transformation possible? While appearing almost magical, it took a lot of coordination, collaboration, hard work, and resources to make the transformation happen. First, Yachad evaluated the repair needs and partnered with YouthBuild Public Charter School students to complete extensive drywall repairs throughout the entire home. Work continued to be possible in the home thanks to the sponsorship of the Cora and John H. Davis Foundation, which funded the work of University of Maryland Hillel volunteers, who painted throughout the home to cover all of the drywall patches and dirt that had accumulated on the walls over the years. These repairs did an enormous amount to repair and brighten up the home, but there was still a long way to go before the repairs were complete.

That’s when Weissberg Corporation and The Rappaport Companies teamed up to bring in a slew of other volunteers and skilled professionals into the home. They brought in Level Green Landscaping, who completely revitalized the Edwards’ front yard, and even leveled the yard and repaired outdoor draining to reduce basement flooding. Weissberg and Rappaport also brought in Select Floors, Inc., who installed beautiful flooring in the Edwards’ living room. Weissberg and Rappaport also sponsored drywall work in the basement including removing unsafe mold and installing new drywall. Additionally, Weissberg and Rappaport brought in their own volunteers, who built new porch steps, installed light fixtures, and conducted many other repairs throughout the home.

Next, Yachad brought in skilled professionals to fix plumbing, electrical, and roofing in the home. The shutoff valve on the one toilet in the home had to be adjusted every time someone had to use the restroom, and plumbing in the sink and shower also did not work properly. Now, there is a fully functioning bathroom that is also much cleaner, brighter, and more comfortable to use. A great deal of electrical and roofing work also makes it easier for the family to see and for the family to stay dry when it rains. Furthermore, YouthBuild continued work in the home, including repairing siding along the whole back portion of the home.

Now imagine this process happening for many homes and community centers in the course of a spring. This is what Yachad’s work is all about. Take a look at this video to learn more about what was accomplished throughout the 14 homes and community center this spring.

A special thank you to everyone who made this season possible:

Acker & Sons Plumbing and Heating
CMI Companies Lighting and Electrical
Feldwood Construction
JKJ Electric
Level Green Landscaping, LLC
Select Floors
Springfield Roofing
Wood and Whitacre Roofing
Youthbuild Public Charter School

Cora and John Davis Foundation
Daniel Ehrenberg Family
Deborah Ratner Salzberg and Michael Salzberg
JBG Companies
Joseph and Lynn Horning
Rappaport Companies
Weissberg Corp
Yachad Board

Volunteer Groups:
Girl Scouts of America Troop #228
JBG Companies
Klein Hornig LLC
Rappaport Companies
Weissberg Corp
Adas Israel Congregation
Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation
Ben Gurion Society of Greater Washington Jewish Federation
Birthright Alumni
Congregation Etz Hayim
Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School
Temple Micah
Temple Rodef Shalom
Temple Sinai
Tifereth Israel
Washington Hebrew Congregation
Yachad United
6th and I, Not Your Bubbe’s Sisterhood
Area Hillels:
American University
Georgetown University
George Washington University
University of Maryland

Photos Courtesy of Sue Dorfman

Handymensches in the Kitchen and Klein Hornig’s in the House!

June 10th, 2014

Photo Courtesy of Sue Dorfman

Yachad volunteers have been busy cooking up some great repairs, including a transformation of the Mahmoud kitchen. These volunteers were Yachad’s first participants in our new “Handymensch” program, which recruits semi-skilled volunteers to tackle repair projects under a skilled supervisor. The volunteers at the Mahmoud house did just that, installing new kitchen cabinets and adding shelving for extra storage. Ms. Mahmoud was thrilled about the renovated and newly functioning kitchen, which includes a new oven to replace the hot plate she had been using, and she will be eagerly moving her pots, pans, and other cooking supplies from the basement into her new cabinets.

Photo Courtesy of Sue Dorfman

For more information about becoming a Handymensch, e-mail Robin, Yachad’s Construction Manager, at robin@yachad-dc.org.

On Thursday, Yachad Board President Dan Ehrenberg and Klein Hornig, LLP were hard at work at the Nichols home. Ms. Michelle Nichols lives in the home with her sister, Josephine, and her granddaughter often visits the home. When the rent in Northwest DC was steadily increasing, Ms. Nichols purchased her home through the help of DC’s Home Purchase Assistance Program, which helps first-time homebuyers to buy a home. Ms. Nichols has lived in the home for thirteen years, and over time there have been serious repair needs that she was unable to address on her own.

Through the generous financial sponsorship of Dan Ehrenberg, Ms. Nichols’ roof, electrical and plumbing will all be repaired. With the help of the hard working volunteers of Klein Hornig, numerous less skilled repairs were accomplished as well as a major interior paint job. A big thank you to Klein Hornig and Dan Ehrenberg for their partnership in making the Nichols house feel more like home!

It’s Not Summer Yet! Sukkot in Spring Continues with Tremendous Work in the Mahmoud Home and St. Paul’s Community Center

May 23rd, 2014

The weather has been feeling a lot like summer lately, but Sukkot in Spring continues! This past weekend, volunteers from Temple Micah, Temple Sinai, Fabrangen, and Tifereth Israel transformed the Mahmoud home and St. Paul’s community center.

Ms. Mahmoud Cooking Lunch for the Volunteers

Ms. Hadia Mahmoud lives in the Benning Heights neighborhood of Southeast DC. Her four children are between the ages of 11 and 18, and she is working hard as a special education assistant at a local school to support them. One of her neighbors is a handyman, and with his help she has been able to make some repairs in the home over the years. Always with a smile on her face and a positive attitude in the face of adversity, her hard work to keep up the home nevertheless was unable to address major repair needs. A leaking roof caused a hole in the kitchen ceiling and a leak in the master bedroom’s closet, and there were several other spots where drywall patching was needed. Electrical and plumbing throughout the home was also in disrepair. The family was living without a working oven or stove, and Ms. Mahmoud was feeding her large family by cooking on a hot plate.

After doing an initial inspection in the home, Yachad was quickly able to locate a new oven and stove for the family, thanks to Yachad’s longtime supporter and construction manager, Richard Feldman, thereby allowing the family to more easily cook nutritious meals. Soon, skilled roof work was also completed in the home. This past Sunday, volunteers from Temple Micah and Temple Sinai took the lead on continuing a significant amount of work in the home. They repaired and replaced electrical circuits and fixtures, replaced insulation, repaired drywall, and installed a new vanity in the downstairs bathroom. Many of the volunteers were seasoned pros, as this is the 20th year of Temple Micah’s participation in Sukkot in Spring.

Photo Courtesy of Lloyd Wolf

Also on Sunday, Fabrangen and Tifereth Israel volunteers were busy painting rooms in St. Paul AME Church’s community center. After extensive, professional drywall repairs had been completed by Millennium Painting in the community center, it was time to cover up the repairs and freshen up the rooms in the process. The volunteers from Fabrangen and Tifereth Israel did a tremendous job brightening up the space.

Thank you, thank you to Temple Micah, Temple Sinai, Fabrangen, and Tifereth Israel for their hard work this past weekend and for their commitment to preserving affordable homes in DC.

Full House and Gilmore Girls: Sukkot in Spring’s Made for TV Special

May 6th, 2014

Sukkot in Spring continued this past weekend with repair projects in Northwest and Southeast DC. Sixth & I Historic Synagogue’s “Not Your Bubbe’s Sisterhood” and a local Girl Scout troupe repaired a community center on Sunday. The space, operated by St. Paul’s AME Church, is a large, converted home that provides tutoring for youth, a free, professional clothing boutique, and other services for the community.

A leaking roof caused damage throughout the home, and Sunday’s volunteers patched a great deal of drywall in order to restore some of the walls. The Girl Scouts and Sixth & I volunteers also did a fabulous job painting; by the end of the day, the space was shining anew with a fresh coat of paint and newly patched walls.

Thank you so much to the dedicated volunteers from Sixth & I, as well as the enthusiastic Girl Scouts. Another big thank you goes out to construction manager Justin Barrows for his hard work leading the project.

Elsewhere in DC, volunteers from Adas Israel Congregation were diligently repairing and painting the Gilmore home. Ms. Anna Gilmore lives with her daughter of the same name, and the senior Ms. Gilmore has lived in her home for thirty-five years. Ms. Gilmore’s daughter moved in with her to serve as her home health aide, and the junior Ms. Gilmore’s young son also lives with them.

Yachad sent in skilled professionals to complete initial work in the home, including extensive drywall and roofing work to fix holes caused by the leaking roof. Adas Israel volunteers removed old, crumbling wallpaper, cleaned and stained cabinets, and painted throughout the home. The space now looks brand new.

The Adas Israel volunteers were seasoned workers; this year marks the 20th year of Adas Israel Congregation’s participation in Sukkot in Spring! Other Yachad volunteers also joined in to make the project a success, and Yachad construction manager Robin Renner once again did a wonderful job managing the worksite. Thank you to everyone who participated, and especially to Adas Israel for their continued support of Yachad’s work.