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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.

Sincerely,
Rev. Marlow L. Mitchell
Pastor


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:

Contractors:
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

Sponsors:
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
Fabrangen
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!

Tuesday, 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

Friday, 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

Tuesday, 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.

Washington Hebrew + Power Tools = A Transformed Home

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

This past weekend, twenty-one volunteers from Washington Hebrew Congregation’s 2239 young professional group wielded hammers and crowbars, saws and drills, as they went to work at the home of the McKeever family in Historic Anacostia.

You may remember the McKeever family from past Sukkot in Spring projects. Building upon Adat Shalom’s earlier work in the home, Washington Hebrew volunteers spent their Mitzvah Day pulling up old, dirty carpets, demolishing drywall, building new porch steps, pulling up weeds and doing other yard work, and removing unsafe flooring.

It is evident from the below pictures how much work was accomplished in the home on Sunday. Just imagine how much Washington Hebrew Congregation’s volunteers have completed over their past 20 years of working on Sukkot in Spring projects!

Thank you to Washington Hebrew Congregation and the WHC volunteers, construction managers John Collier and Robin Renner who expertly ran the project, and the McKeever family for welcoming us into their home. We look forward to the changes yet to come in the home, including replacing flooring, fixing plumbing and installing a new toilet, and weatherproofing the back porch.

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.

Springing into a Season of Repair Projects!

Thursday, 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!

Thursday, 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!