Archive for July, 2013

And The 2013 Ramp It Up! Essay Winner Is….

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

…Sophia Meister! Sophia will be entering 10th grade at Wootton High School and has been an active member of her school’s stage crew. Keep up the good work and we hope to see you next summer!!

Sophia and Ari hard at work

Check out Sophia’s essay below:

I went to Ramp it Up! because my mom found an article about it in the Post. I am on stage crew for Wootton, so I enjoy building, and this was a chance for me to build a ramp. I told my mom that sure, I would go. I am glad I did. I learned a lot from the one week I was there. I built a ramp for a 20-year-old named Herson Portillo so his parents could stop carrying him down steps. I impacted the Portillo’s life by making their house easily accessible for everyone. This has really opened my eyes to how much the ramp will affect the family. This experience really opened up my eyes to a problem in our society, especially since there are so many families that have children with disabilities. Why we have not done something like this sooner?

Ramp it Up! has really showed me what it is like for families who do not have ramps but could use them (Mr. Portillo took Herson out one day and had to carry him down the stairs). Going to Ramp it Up! has really changed the way I look at the world and how much we should do. There are more things we can do besides building ramps, like donating food for the hungry and donating money so more people can stop living on the streets. It has made me realize how much these families need ramps to make their lives that much easier. People do not realize this issue is very important because there are so many other issues that also need to be dealing with. Ramp it Up! addresses the issue for those who sign up, and it is good that they are making themselves known because more people should become familiar with this problem. I would love to help out in any way that I can, whether it is build another ramp or help any other group of people in need. I know that this problem can be solved one ramp at a time. I have also learned a little bit about myself from this experience. I have learned that when you meet people with a common goal, anything can be done. I enjoy helping families by making their lives easier. I can do whatever I like if I put my mind to it, and if I do just that, I can help millions of people. I can help families across the country with hunger issues or home issues. I can do that if I take one step at a time, using my experience with Ramp it Up!, I can use my skills and knowledge to do something great with the world. I will support ramp building because I have seen firsthand of what it can do for a family in need of one. I will assist in every way that I can to help families get what they need.

Sophia will be receiving a gift card to Ace Hardware for writing the winning essay. Click here to read more about this summer’s ramp.

Forest City Enterprises Unites with Yachad

Friday, July 19th, 2013

Over 40 Forest City Enterprises employees took a break from their everyday jobs to be heroes to two DC families for a day.  Forest City Enterprises, a real estate management and development firm, showed great commitment to their community by not only mobilizing their employees to volunteer with Yachad, but also by sponsoring a single family home through Yachad’s Neighbor to Neighbor Initiative*.

The group was split between two homes, both in DC’s southern quadrants near Nationals Stadium, an area in which the company has several development projects currently happening.  About 20 volunteers worked on The Hickman’s home and the other 20 worked on the Jones’s home.  Both the Hickman and the Jones families worked side-by-side with the volunteers, in the true Yachad spirit.

The volunteers completed far more than Yachad had planned for them to complete!  Drywall repairs, painting, floor staining, carpentry and trash hauling kept them busy all day, despite the scorching temperatures.

When the volunteers left, Yachad’s Program Director, Kendra Rubinfeld got a call from Mrs. Hickman who was singing the volunteers’ praises.  Mrs. Jones also called the Yachad offices and left a message of complete gratitude.

A Bit About the Families Assisted:


The Hickmans met when they were both working at Amtrak.  They purchased their house together when they were both gainfully employed, 12 years ago.  Since then, Mr. Hickman fell ill and during this time in the hospital had to have his foot amputated.  He currently uses a crutch or a wheelchair to get around and can no longer work.  Despite efforts to keep up their home, with their limited income and heavy medical bills, the Hickman’s home needed repairs and accessibility modifications.  The volunteers helped to do the drywall, painting, carpentry and floor staining.  The sponsorship funds went to help make the home safe from electrical fires (a heavy up was done), repair major plumbing issues and fix the roof.  Mr. Hickman will also be receiving a walk-in tub, thanks to funding from The National Fair Housing Alliance.


The Jones Family of Anacostia fell on hard times about 3 years ago when Mr. Jones had a bad fall and bruised his spinal cord leaving him paralyzed and unable to continue working as a DCWASA engineer or able to live an independent life within his inaccessible home.  His wife had to quit her job and become his full-time caretaker, and their children needed to grow up quickly in order to help their parents with the new lifestyle.  Through Yachad’s program, the family received a lower-level renovation to make Mr. Jones more at home in his house and allow him to lead a more accessible and independent life.  Find out more about those renovations here.  In addition, Forest City Enterprises, was able to give the family a fresh new coat of paint in a house that needed some love and care.

Photos from the day:

*The Neighbor to Neighbor Initiative offers generous donors the opportunity to underwrite the costs of a home or nonprofit facility renovation.  N2N donors can work on their own projects or Yachad can connect groups of enthusiastic volunteers to do the work-such as youth groups, civic organizations and area college students.  Sponsorships start at $10,000.

A Paralyzed Man Receives a Fresh Start with a New Renovation

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

The Jones Family

The Jones Family of Anacostia fell on hard times about 3 years ago when Mr. Jones had a bad fall and bruised his spinal cord leaving him paralyzed and unable to continue working as a DCWASA engineer or able to live an independent life within his inaccessible home. Thanks to Yachad, hard times are in the past.  We mobilized professional contractors, volunteers and philanthropists to renovate the Jones’s house to make it fully accessible for him and his family.

The Jones’s home is a two story row house that was previously inaccessible for Mr. Jones.  He was being sponge bathed in the kitchen sink and he could not leave his home without the assistance of his family.  Mrs. Jones was forced to quit his job in education to be a full time caretaker for her husband of twenty years.  Their two children also felt the changes, having to spend their free time helping their mother around the house. The Jones family had spent all of their savings on medical bills, and had lost their private health insurance, so other things around the home began to deteriorate as well.

Bedroom Before-No bathroom/no privacy.

Kitchen-Where Mr. Jones used to bathe

What did we do?

Yachad worked with a general contractor and 10 subcontractors that volunteered their time and materials to completely renovate the lower level to make it accessible and private for Mr. Jones.  The space, which was once unfinished, is now a “place made just for Marion,” says Mrs. Jones.

Added Dimensions-Alan Kanner lead the project, contacting all of his subs, asking them to donate their services to the project.  Alan, you continue to amaze us with your generosity!

Stoiber & Associates-Jeff Stoiber provided the architectural plans for the renovation.  It was his idea to move Mr. Jones onto the lower level.

Acker & Sons– Donated an immense amount of time and materials to renovate the bathroom to make it fully ADA accessible.  Mr. Jones had not taken a real shower in 2 years before this bathroom was build for him!

JKJ Electric– A long time Yachad subcontractor, JKJ Electric completed all of the electrical installations and repairs needed.

Quality Window and Door– Donated both new windows and an accessible door to provide natural light in a space that could be dark, but is now light and cheery.

Arch Architectural Ceramics-Donated all of the tile and ceramics needed to renovate the bathroom and shower for Mr. Jones.

Sherwin Williams Paints-Donated the paint to make the space look brand new.

Steve Clark Drywall-Donated the labor for the drywall, building new walls and sectioning off the space to make it more of an apartment than an unfinished basement.

Jiffy John-Donated the porta-potty, allowing the Jones house to stay clean and free of mud tracked through the rest of the home.

Tenleytown Trash-A long time Yachad subcontractor, supplied the pick up and haul away services.

Lower Level Before

Lower Level After

Mr. Jone's New Private Bedroom

Once the professional work was complete, Yachad organized volunteers from Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Synagogue to complete the repairs such as painting and small carpentry. The work that was not donated was supported by donations from the National Fair Housing Alliance, local synagogues, Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Synagogue, and local philanthropists, Julie Jacobs and Irma Poretsky.

Basement Bathroom Before-Unusable

New Accessible Bathroom

Yachad also ensured that the Jones family has the resources they need to maintain the home improvements.  The Jones family attended 10 hours of education for homeowners covering budgeting, DIY maintenance, protecting assets and avoiding scams, and building community relations.  More on the Yachad Homeowners Workshop here.

On July 14, the Jones family hosted a barbecue so members of their community along with contractors, volunteers and Yachad staff could view the finished renovations. View photos of the event below:

Adat Shalom Volunteer, Becca Farkas

Board Love

Mrs. Jones sits with Audrey Lyon (Exec. Dir.)

Mrs. Jones speaks with Arch Architectural Ceramics Staff

Rebuilding Together Plucks More Than A Few Heartstrings

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

For Yachad’s Sukkot in Spring program, we team up with the national organization, Rebuilding Together, to work with synagogues outside of DC that want to work in their own counties.  This year, we worked with Rebuilding Together Montgomery County to organize Shaare Torah Congregation and Temple Beth Ami to complete a project in Gaithersburg, Maryland.  Roger Rothman, from Temple Beth Ami, leveraged the small budget into some amazing donations, including a backyard playground for the kids, a new stove, new windows all around, 3 new sliding glass doors, and more. To top it all off, Lashof Violins, a small violin shop in Gaithersburg owned by Alicia Coberly and Genevieve Swift, donated a brand new violin to the homeowners’ 16-year-old daughter, who had to give up her rental instrument a few years ago. The group couldn’t have completed the project without the daughter’s help, who served as a English to Spanish translator for her parents. Check out Rebuilding Together’s Facebook page to see more pictures.

Rebuilding Together volunteers delegate tasks at their annual Sukkot in Spring project

Teen volunteers hard at work

The homeowners receive a wonderful surprise for their daughter

Ramper and Recipient Tip Their Hat

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Michael Greenberg, a rising senior at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, participated in both weeks of our most recent Ramp It Up! session. Throughout the two weeks, Michael developed a close relationship with the homeowner, Mr. Portillo. The summer weather reached a record high with 95 degrees and 94% humidity on Wednesday of the second week. Nonetheless, the ramp team huffed and puffed as they focused on drilling and sawing. But there were limited breaks as they had to the get the ramp finished by that Friday.

Mr. Portillo came outside that day to give Michael a cowboy hat. He saw Michael’s impending sunburn and wanted to help out however he could.

Michael sports his new hat on the work site

On the last day of ramp camp, Michael arrived to the site with a hat from his school’s baseball team and gave it to Herson to return the favor.

Herson wearing his new JDS hat at the pizza party

The entire team was so proud of how Michael developed a strong relationship with the homeowners. Keep up the good work, Michael!

Teens Help Another Teen through Ramp it Up! 2013

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Since 2005, Yachad has been running Ramp It Up!, a summer camp where high-school students build an accessibility ramp for a family in need. Read about the program here.

We just completed our ramp for this year with a series of new accomplishments under our tool belts. For the first time, we partnered with the Jewish Social Service Agency (JSSA) and American Jewish Society for Service (AJSS) to provide our first ever educational component to the camp. Our students were able to actively participate in community service, while learning about the different kinds of service and charity that exist.

Who Did We Help?
Mr. and Mrs. Portillo live in New Carrollton, Maryland with Herson, their 20-year-old son. Herson has suffered from cerebral-palsy since birth, leaving him unable to speak or walk without help. For the past 20 years, the Portillo family have carried their son in and out of the house. Furthermore, the sheer size of Herson’s wheelchair made it very difficult for him to remain in his chair while inside of the house. However, now the Portillo family have a ramp and a deck for Herson to use whenever he wants.

Thanks to Ramp It Up! Herson can sit outside in his wheelchair and the Portillos no longer have to strain themselves to pick up their son.

More photos can be seen here.

We will be posting the winner of the Ramp it Up! essay contest in the next month here on our blog. All Rampers are required to write essays about their experience, but only one wins the essay contest complete with publication to our blog and a gift certificate!

The Ramp It Up! team with the Portillo family pose in front of the newly completed ramp

Our Board Sponsors a Home

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Through Yachad’s Neighbor to Neighbor Initiative, our board will be raising $10,000 to sponsor the Copeland’s home. Follow the thermometer to the right to watch as the donations grow.

About The Copelands:
Ms. Sheila Copeland, 62, is a school teacher for DCPS living with her son, Jesse, an apprentice electrician. She was the victim of an unscrupulous contractor that cost her thousands of dollars and left her with a non-functioning bathroom. Now distrustful of contractors, she has attempted to do-it-herself-but with little success. Ms. Copeland and her son are perfect candidates for Yachad’s Homeowner Education Program, where they could learn the essentials of home maintenance and how to hire trustworthy contractors. With these skills, they could maintain their home. Without them, the house will continue to deteriorate.

About Neighbor to Neighbor Initiative:
This new fundraising effort offers generous donors the opportunity to underwrite the costs of a home or nonprofit facility renovation. N2N donors can work on their own projects or yachad can connect groups of enthusiastic volunteers to do the work-such as youth groups, civic organizations and area college students.