Archive for July, 2014

Reflecting on Ramp it Up!

Wednesday, 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

Thursday, 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

Monday, 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