Archive for April, 2014

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

Wednesday, 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

Wednesday, 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.