Grabbing Paintbrushes and Rollers, Sukkot in Spring Volunteers “On a Roll”

April 9th, 2014

Three more families’ lives were transformed this past weekend when their homes underwent major repair work thanks to volunteers from the Ben-Gurion Society of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, Hillel at the University of Maryland, Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Synagogue, and Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School. The volunteers, working as part of Yachad’s annual Sukkot in Spring home repair program, were also making a difference as a part of the Federation’s Good Deeds Day. The volunteers came together to perform incredible work in partnership with homeowners in Anacostia, Petworth, and Takoma Park, DC.

The Webb Home

The Webb Family

The Ben-Gurion Society and Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School worked on the home of Ms. Lynn-Sheree Webb. Ms. Webb lives in the home with her three sons, John, Charlie, and Lenny, and her young grandson. The family hired a contractor some time ago to complete needed repairs on the home, but the contractor scammed them and left with large sums of money without completing the work. As a result, the home was left in major need of roofing, electrical, and plumbing work, and the family no longer had the funds to hire another contractor. Yachad mobilized skilled workers to complete many of these repairs. After the skilled work, the house needed a tremendous amount of TLC in the form of painting.

That’s where the volunteers came in. Students and parents from Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School energetically painted the walkway leading up to the house and cleaned and prepped the indoors for painting. After their hard work to prep the house, members of the Ben-Gurion Society then painted most of the home. Yachad’s construction manager, Robin Renner, skillfully managed the project to maximize the volunteers’ impact. Ben-Gurion Society volunteers also put together an outdoor memorial for Ms. Webb’s late son and commemorated his life with a moment of silence by the memorial stone. By the end of the day, the house had become a home.

The Edwards Home

Elsewhere, University of Maryland Hillel students were hard at work at the Edwards’ home, which has been in the family for forty-five years; Mrs. Edwards purchased the home when she was twenty-three. The Edwards’ have seven children and many grandchildren, and the home is the family’s “community center.” Mr. and Mrs. Edwards live in the home with four of their children and three young grandchildren.

Mr. Edwards, Photo Courtesy of Sue Dorfman

The house has gone through substantial wear and tear. Mr. Edwards had a stroke several years ago, and Mrs. Edwards retired to take care of him. Ever since, it has been difficult for the family to gather resources for large scale repairs.

Recently, Yachad partnered with YouthBuild, an alternative high school that provides vocational construction training for its students. YouthBuild students drywalled most of the house, transforming the walls that had been covered with crayon markings, dirt, and holes. They also are repairing the home’s outdoor siding.

YouthBuild Students, Photo Courtesy of Sue Dorfman

Other skilled workers removed dirty and worn carpets throughout the home. Mrs. Edwards shared that her grandsons had allergy or recurring cold symptoms, and when the carpets were removed their coughing and other symptoms suddenly disappeared.

On Sunday, University of Maryland Hillel students painted much of the house in order to give it a fresh look. Thirty plus volunteers grabbed paintbrushes and rollers and made their way from room to room, wall to wall and coat to coat to complete the painting. Two of the Edwards grandsons also did a fabulous job painting and working alongside the other volunteers. Whether hoisting friends up to reach windowsills or letting friends sit on shoulders to reach the ceilings, the teamwork of the students and Edwards family members made a great deal of work possible. John Collier, who also led the YouthBuild projects at the home, and Richard Feldman, a longtime Yachad partner, did a great job supervising the large project.

Mr. and Mrs. Edwards were extremely appreciative of the work being done and were gracious hosts. There are even more exciting renovations planned for the Edwards home, so stayed stay tuned!

The McKeever Home

Ms. McKeever

Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation marked their 20th year of participation in Sukkot in Spring with a two-day project at the McKeever home. Ms. Christine McKeever has lived in her home in historic Anacostia for almost thirty years. She lives with her longtime partner, Morris, her two sons Isaiah and Randy, and her grandson, Malik. There was a fire in the home in 2000, which hindered the family’s ability to keep up with the home.

Photo Courtesy of Sue Dorfman

Yachad completed initial, skilled repairs in the home, and Adat Shalom volunteers came in on two Sundays to complete even more work. The volunteers worked alongside the McKeever family to paint, conduct handyperson repairs, and making the living space much more habitable. With their years of expertise on Yachad projects, the volunteers swiftly made progress in the home.

Photo Courtesy of Sue Dorfman

Mrs. McKeever’s son, grandson and Adat Shalom volunteers also mustered their strength to move the original cast iron, non-functioning furnace out of the way of the new electrical box into a newly cleared out space. This was a big job and big congratulations were well-deserved. A special thanks to the construction manager on the project and Yachad board member, Louis Tenenbaum.

Photo Courtesy of Sue Dorfman

There is still more to come for the McKeever home as the spring and summer progress.

Thank You!

Thank you so much to all who have volunteered, led projects, and contributed financially to Yachad’s work so far this spring. An enormous amount has already been accomplished, and this is just the beginning of what is to come during the rest of the spring and the year. A big thanks to some of our Neighbor to Neighbor sponsors whose financial support enabled these volunteer groups to do tremendous work.

Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School Students and Parents
University of Maryland Hillel Students

Ben-Gurion Society Volunteers

American University Hillel Students Restore a House with a Long Family History

April 2nd, 2014

This past weekend, Sukkot in Spring continued with a project at Ms. Norieta Slade’s home in Pleasant Plains. Ms. Slade’s home has served as a foundation for her whole life, and indeed for the lives of numerous family members. The home has been in the family for 60 years, and through that time much change has occurred within the family and in the neighborhood.

The home used to be what the family calls an “Underground Railroad” for family members moving from North Carolina to Washington, D.C. Each family member who moved would stay in the home before getting settled and finding their way in the new city. Ms. Slade’s mother was a hard working woman, always eager to be self-sufficient and manage the household herself. The family also had the support of the local community; the neighborhood was extremely close-knit and all parents watched out for the community’s children. Doors were never locked and everyone knew and supported one another.

Over time, the neighborhood and make-up of the community has changed dramatically. Neighbors no longer know each other, and many long-time residents have been pushed out of the neighborhood. Ms. Slade and her sister Linda Harris continue to maintain their family home. They have made numerous repairs and improvements, but the home necessitated more serious repairs than they were able to address on their own.

Yachad mobilized skilled workers to fix major electrical and drywall repairs in the home, and American University Hillel students and staff members stepped up to provide a much-needed paint job. They did a fantastic job energetically cleaning the walls, painting almost the entire home, and even putting on a second coat of paint. Some students braved the rain and sleet to clear out the yard and plant flowers. An AU student shared, “It was such an amazing day painting the house. Both the girls and guys had a great time working together and working with your organization.” Thank you, American University students and staff, for your hard work to make the house feel more like home!

This project was made possible by the Cora and John H. Davis Foundation, a Yachad Neighbor to Neighbor sponsor.

Springing into a Season of Repair Projects!

March 27th, 2014

It may be hard to tell based on the weather, but Sukkot in Spring has begun! This past weekend started off our packed spring with the Georgetown Jewish Student Association and George Washington Hillel students and alumni working on Ms. Frazier’s home.

You may remember Ms. Frazier’s story and the extensive work that Bernstein Management Corporation completed in the fall to transform her home. In addition to the completion of larger-scale repairs, there were aesthetic and small repairs needed to finish up work in the home.

On Sunday morning, the Georgetown Jewish Student Association completed outdoor work and indoor prep work on Ms. Frazier’s home with gusto. Vine removal was no easy task, and yet, the students efficiently cleared out the backyard. The students also enthusiastically cleaned out the home, cleverly creating an assembly line to transport materials.

The afternoon crew of George Washington University Hillel students, alumni, and community members picked up where the morning group left off by painting several of Ms. Frazier’s upstairs rooms. They cleaned and prepped the walls, ceilings, and baseboards, and then grabbed their rollers and brushes to tackle the painting.

Thank you to the Georgetown and GW groups that worked so hard to make the home a more comfortable and beautiful space.

Congratulations to Spring Workshop Graduates!

March 20th, 2014

On Sunday, twenty Yachad homeowners and family members came out for the final spring Homeowner Education Workshop. This third class covered financial planning skills such as budgeting, preventing identity theft, and consumer protection. A big thank you to the volunteers from Our Daily Bread who led the workshop and to Academy of Hope for hosting us for the third time in their building.

At the end of the workshop, several homeowners became Yachad Homeowner Education Workshop graduates! Graduates received the book Dare to Repair as well as a 72-piece homeowner toolkit. The workshops have provided homeowners with extensive home maintenance, financial planning, and other resources, and we hope that these skills last well beyond when the Yachad paintbrushes and tools have been cleared away.

Congratulations to Ms. Brenda McManus, Ms. Tandaleyia Miles, Ms. Michelle Nichols, and Ms. Lynn-Sheree Webb on their completion of the program!

Maintenance Skills, Smaller Bills: Homeowners Tackle the Spackle

February 26th, 2014

Last Sunday, Yachad’s construction manager, Robin Renner, led homeowners in a Do-It-Yourself Maintenance workshop at Academy of Hope. Rolling up their sleeves, the group learned how to repair drywall, spackle, and conduct a wide variety of home repairs. It turns out that repairing drywall is a lot like decorating a cake.

Fifteen homeowners and family members attended, enthusiastically participating in the hands-on work and skillfully making the repairs.

A big thanks to Robin for leading the workshop, to the homeowners who participated, and to Academy of Hope for generously allowing us to use their classroom facilities. We look forward to our next workshop in March!

Pre-Game to the Games Heightens Olympic Competition

February 11th, 2014

Yachad works every day for “Team USA” to transform homes and communities, but on Thursday, February 6th, Yachad stepped it up a notch with some Olympic-style competition. Yachad United, Yachad’s young professional group, hosted a happy hour and games night at Thomas Foolery that brought out well over forty people to celebrate Yachad’s work and raise support for future repair projects.

Team Netherlands dominated the competition at the games tournament, with France and Switzerland coming in for a close silver and bronze.

Congratulations to the winning Olympians (Yachadians)! A big thanks to Rachel Miller Griffith, Deborah Ben-Moshe, and the rest of the planning committee that made the event possible, and thanks to everyone who came out to support Yachad. We hope you can join us for a Yachad United spring repair project!

Ramp it Up! Camp Returns for 2014

February 4th, 2014

Yachad’s Ramp it Up! Is Back
Sign Up Now—Room for only 20 Lucky Rampers

Ramp it Up! returns for the summer of 2014 to transform a home, the lives of a family, and the lives of the high-schoolers who participate. Ramp it Up! is Yachad’s summer camp in which high school students build an accessibility ramp.

Rampers spend five days building an accessibility ramp for an individual with disabilities under the supervision of a carpenter and counselor. In addition to learning construction skills, rampers learn about issues of poverty and accessibility as a civil right by reading articles, learning from guest speakers, and participating in group discussions.

Students must have at least completed freshman year of high school. Rampers will receive 30 hours of SSL community service hours for one week of participation.

This year, campers can choose to attend one of two weeks of camp or attend both weeks. The 2014 dates are: June 16- 20, June 23- 27

Tuition: $400 for one week and $750 for two weeks

To learn more and download an application, please visit http://yachad-dc.org/rampitup.php.

We hope to see you this summer!

Yachad Launches Handymensch Volunteer Group

February 4th, 2014

Do a Mitzvah, Become a Yachad Handymensch!

If you know your way around a hammer or have any carpentry, plumbing, or other repair skills, then grab a hammer and be a mensch… a Handymensch!

*Mensch (n.): An upstanding, worthy, honorable person. One who does good deeds: “He is a real mensch, the kind of guy you can always count on.”

Yachad is launching the Handymensch program for semi-skilled volunteers to work on a few repair projects a year. Volunteers must have some home repair experience, but can improve and learn new skills on the job. Groups of a few Handymensch will go out quarterly to homes and non-profit sites with Yachad’s construction manager to tackle vital repairs.

All we ask is that you make a commitment of volunteering at least twice a year. Handymensches make it possible for Yachad to make a bigger impact by decreasing project costs so we can do more work.

For more information or to sign up, contact Robin Renner, Yachad’s Construction Manager, at robin@yachad-dc.org.

First Homeowner Education Workshop of 2014 a Big Success!

January 8th, 2014

Sunday, January 5th was the first Homeowner Education Workshop of 2014, and it was a huge success! Fourteen homeowners and family members braved the wet, wintry weather to begin the process of better household management from clutter control and personal budgeting.

Kendra Rubinfeld, our former Director of Programs, returned to lead a dynamic workshop on clutter control. Kendra shared before and after photos of her personal clutter transformation, and presented effective strategies that made her home’s transformation possible. Homeowners learned that rather than letting clutter control them, they have the power to control their clutter. When talking about the intense sentimental value of objects, Kendra said, “That’s too much power for a thing” and encouraged homeowners to prioritize which items they ultimately save.

Roxanne Littner, a Yachad board member, talked with homeowners about budgeting and saving. She called her portion of the class “Youniversity,” and discussed how saving money at the start of each month gives the money back to “You.” Roxanne also shared how saving money for oneself and one’s children is extraordinarily important, as she explained, “A better legacy than money is the legacy of learning how to use money.” In saving money, money can become a tool to “create” and “build something, rather than destroy something.”

The workshop was a wonderful opportunity for homeowners to meet one another and meet Yachad staff members, and gain new skills that will be of assistance long after Yachad repairs have been completed. Thanks to Jayme Epstein and Academy of Hope for allowing us to use their beautiful classroom space.

The next two Homeowner Education Workshops will be held in February, and will cover topics such as utilizing community resources, making detailed budgets and financial plans, and learning “do it yourself” home maintenance skills.

Remarks from a Yachad Homeowner

December 20th, 2013

Chrystal Jones and her family partnered with Yachad this past year, and she shared her story with us at the 2013 Community Builders Bash. Here are her remarks on how Yachad transformed her home and the lives of her family members. We hope to form many new Yachad partnerships in 2014 that will be just as transformative for the homeowners, volunteers, skilled workers, communities, and everyone else involved in the work we do.

I believe that God uses ordinary people to show his Grace and Mercy. He used Yachad to engage me in a life changing experience that significantly improved the quality of life for my family, empowered me personally, and provided an avenue to establish some life-long relationships.

My husband, who is disabled, was literally trapped in our home. He had not been able to take a shower in two years. His living area was a back porch that had been renovated to give him a sleeping area. It was very hot in the summer and extremely cold during the winter. The only way to bathe him was from the kitchen sink. It was a struggle to keep the area sanitary. Because of Yachad, he now he has a lower-level apartment with a walk-in shower, and an outside door accessible for a wheelchair.

Working with Yachad volunteers, my children and I helped to build this very special place for him. Seeing my 11 year-old daughter knocking down walls with other volunteers was phenomenal. My son had an opportunity to work with and be mentored by men of character and purpose. My children will always remember that they helped make that space a reality for their father.