Margaret Forde, born in Barbados, achieved the American dream buying her home 24 years ago in the Hillcrest neighborhood of Southeast Washington. She found the area safe and beautiful with lots of trees, plus friendly neighbors. "It feels like home," she says. Although the home needed repairs, it had a solid foundation, and she was able to afford the down payment for which she had been saving. She fixed the home over the years doing what she could. Then the problems escalated.
In 2018, her living room ceiling fell in. And later, she had a stealthy roof leak that led to severe water damage throughout the home. Water streamed down the walls, and she had to put out containers to catch it. Her master bathroom sink and lights stopped working--making it unusable--along with other lights and outlets throughout the home.
As a former Girl Scout, Ms. Forde was always proud that she knew how to survive any conditions and to handle challenges. But now in her late 70's with self-described “bad knees,” she feels overwhelmed by all the repairs. Managing it all has become difficult and beyond her budget. She reached out to Lydia’s House to apply for city services, and through our partnership, Lydia’s House referred her to Yachad’s Single Family Healthy Home Remediation Program.
Yachad got to work.
With the water leak now under control when Ms. Forde replaced the original roof, Yachad focused on the rest: extensive wall and ceiling damage, plumbing and electrical repairs, and accessibility needs.
Yachad’s repairs have made a difference in Ms. Forde’s daily living. The master bathroom is now functional, replacing the sink and fixing the walls, lights, and outlets. Electrical work is completed with repairs to outlets and lights throughout the home. GFI's were installed for safety. New bannisters were added to staircases, plus handrails were tightened making it easier for Ms. Forde to navigate the steps with her cane. Plaster walls and ceilings throughout the home are patched and damaged drywall replaced to reduce cold air and pests infiltrating the home.
Her favorite repair is the new light installed in the basement. Previously, she stumbled through the dark and up a flight of stairs before accessing a light switch. Now her path is illuminated making coming and going much safer.
She said her family has good genes, so she expects to live in and enjoy her home for many more years. Ms. Forde is tickled to receive assistance from a Jewish organization. She has fond memories of attending an all-Jewish high school in Flatbush, New York. “The Jewish people have helped me out over the years when I needed it. I feel a special connection.”
Willa Holloway fell in love with her Congress Heights home when she moved in with her husband 26 years ago. They raised four children in this home built in 1945 and enjoyed the quiet neighborhood. Her husband, who was the handyman doing most repairs himself, died last year due to Covid-19.
Ms. Holloway, born and raised in DC, told Yachad that she gets offers all the time to buy her home, but "where is she going to go?" She shared with us that everything is so expensive and this is her home. She wants to stay where she is but it's challenging.
Now Ms. Holloway now shares her home with her daughter and 1-year-old grand baby. They were particularly concerned about the roof leak that was causing mold to grow on the walls and ceiling. The family pooled their money together to repair the roof, but more needs to be done. The home’s original electrical system is outdated, unsafe, and often blows fuses. With few working outlets, the family runs multiple extension cords throughout the house creating tripping hazards.
Enter Yachad. To date we have repaired the broken and faulty electrical outlets throughout the home, installing new GFI outlets where none existed, and upgrading the electrical panel, thanks to Silco Electric. The stove, which had a gas leak, was repaired, so now the family can safely cook meals again.
Yachad's Housing Navigator Program is helping the family apply for the District's weatherization services and hopefully receive a much-needed new hot water tank and double-paned windows.
Soon Yachad will secure the basement stairs, install a new handrail, and provide mold management assistance. Together we are ensuring a healthy, safe home for this family of three generations of Washingtonians.
I had to put four pots in the hallway to catch the water, and I slept with a pot in my bed when it rained. --Ms. W, Yachad Homeowner, Ward 8
The COVID-19 pandemic pushed Sukkot in Spring 2021 this year, to this fall—overlapping with the actual holiday of Sukkot. A roof with openings may be required for a sukkah, but it is not acceptable for a healthy home. We might not mind our time in the sukkah if the weather is cold or rainy—thinking it novel—for we know it’s only temporary, and we’ll be back into our warm, dry home soon enough. But for many families in Washington, DC, living daily with openings in the roof and walls is a hazard to their health and not novel at all.
Last year the program was paused and we carefully continued our home remediation work without our usual partnerships or volunteer groups, focusing solely on repairs by tradespeople. This year we are bringing back a modified version of our program and welcome our Sukkot in Spring sponsors once again. We are not using volunteer groups right now, but focusing on critical problems for tradespeople to resolve: roof and plumbing leaks, broken HVAC systems, hazardous mold, and unsafe, electrical systems. Volunteers are with us in spirit.
With this year and last presenting formidable challenges and creating so much uncertainty, having the support from our partners means so much to Yachad and to the families we assist. It is only with the community by our side that we can keep sending out the roofer and plumber, making a BIG difference for our neighbors.
Thank you to our 2021 Sponsors:
Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation
Adas Israel Congregation
Agudas Achim Congregation
EJF Real Estate
Goldfarb & Associates
National Cooperative Bank
And as we begin this new Jewish year, we wish everyone in the community a healthy and happy new year. And with proper home remediation, we can really mean it.
Chag Sukkot Sameach.
Roof damage led to major water infiltration, interior damage and mold throughout this DC home. Yachad has repaired the roof and is addressing the other repairs still needed to make this home healthy again.
Two years ago, Ms. D purchased a 1950s rehab home in Prince George's County, Maryland that fit her budget and could accommodate her two adult children and two young grandsons. The joy of being a homeowner quickly turned to despair when the family discovered a long-standing leak that was getting worse as time went by and creating mold in the home.
Yachad was brought in after a doctor’s visit for the 5-year-old’s persistent cold led to an asthma diagnosis and treatment at Children’s National’s IMPACT clinic. The clinic referred the family to Yachad.
Yachad's inspection revealed significant water damage in the home: water from the upstairs bathroom had leaked into the kitchen, ruining cabinets and the family's oven A second leak caused damage to the kitchen floorboards. Both leaks were causing mildew and mold, worsening the home asthma issues.
It took multiple visits to correct all the plumbing problems including a leaking dishwasher pump. Yachad replaced the dishwasher through a partnership with M & M Appliance. Yachad provided mold cleaning recommendations, how-to guides for the family, plus pest control and mattress covers as part of our Asthma Home Visiting Program.
Recently, HandyMensch, Marc Zweben, using Covid-safe protocols, completed tile repair in the upstairs bathroom that was left open when the new plumbing was installed.
Ms. D and her family are living a bit happier and healthier lives thanks to Yachad's work.
The 1950s home Mrs. A and her husband purchased three years ago for their family of seven, including an elderly mother, had a persistent leak problem and was constantly damp.
Water dripped into bedrooms through the ceiling and windows, as well as the living room and kitchen, causing extensive wall damage and mold, creating a dangerous situation for the three family members with chronic asthma. It was a stressful time for the family. Their young son would cry whenever it rained, concerned that the house was breaking.
The children’s asthma led them to treatment at Children’s National, which referred the family to the Impact DC Asthma Clinic and Yachad. Alongside doctors and health professionals, Yachad was part of a virtual home visit that provided a tele-health and virtual home inspection. The team was able to see the home, assess the situation and map out a multi-pronged plan.
Yachad repaired the damaged roof and gutters, which were leaking water into the walls of the home, arranged extermination services, and provided healthy home educational materials. Yachad’s Asthma Home Visiting Program (formerly BreatheEasy) provided mattress and pillowcase covers, a HEPA vacuum cleaner, and a dehumidifier.
Yachad referred the family to the District’s weatherization program to help get their old leaky, single-pane metal windows replaced with double pane windows that will keep the home warmer and more energy efficient. The family was also eligible for a reduction in their utility bill as part of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
The family says the overall health and housing remediation plan is working. The 6-year-old son has not had any asthma attacks in over 6 months. Mrs. A appreciated the collaborative virtual visit which made it easy for the family to participate.
For each family we serve, the impact is real; the work truly matters. Support our efforts to make homes livable. DONATE TODAY.
Lavinia grew up in Prince George’s County and shares her home with her teenage granddaughter and 10-year-old grandson. Lavinia got sick and fell on hard times. Three years ago, she lost her job making it impossible to afford the repairs needed to make her home livable. Her response after she learned that she was accepted into Yachad’s Single Family Home Repair Program: “Thank you for answering my prayers.”
“The plumbing was a nightmare.” Her only toilet would constantly overflow, ruining the carpet, sending water into the hallway near the bedrooms, and worst of all, leaking water into the kitchen below. Not only would the house smell, but water was collecting and pooling in the kitchen ceiling, damaging the drywall.
“I would wake up in the middle of the night scared, wondering how much water was in the ceiling.”
Plus, their kitchen sink backed up, appliances didn’t work, and they had a problem with roaches and mice.
Then, during the beginning of the pandemic, the stair railing fell off making life more difficult for the homeowner who suffers from vertigo. Without a handrail, she was forced at times to crawl up and down the stairs for a fear of falling.
Yachad was able to fix all the plumbing issues and send an exterminator to the home to address the pest problems. With community partners M & M Appliance and general contractor Frank Zappala, we were also able to repair the handrail and provide new kitchen appliances.
“I’m relieved that I don’t have to worry about the toilet anymore. No more wet drywall, no more stink and the sink isn’t backing up anymore. Yachad’s program was a lifesaver for my family. We couldn’t have afforded any of the work…Words really can’t express the way I feel.”
For each family we serve, the impact is real; the work truly matters. Support our efforts to make homes livable. DONATE TODAY.
Robin Renner, Construction Director, answers questions about DIY home repairs.
Are there LED light bulbs that work with dimmers?
Q: My original bathroom fixture uses standard incandescent bulbs. A few months ago, I had an electrician rewire the switch plate with a dimmer switch. The dimmer switch seems to work with regular incandescent light bulbs but not LED light bulbs. For environmental reasons, would it be better to change back to a regular non-dimmer switch with LED light bulbs or keep the dimmer switch and use incandescent bulbs? Are there LED light bulbs that work with dimmers?
A: The short answer is that there is an incompatibility with the bulb and dimmer switch. Not all LED bulbs are dimmable. Make sure you are using an LED that specifically says that it is dimmable. The packaging should say “for use with light dimmers,” like this one.
Also, not all dimmer switches will work with LED since they take a lower wattage. It’s also possible (but not as likely) your electrician didn’t install the correct dimmer switch. Check with your electrician to see if the correct one was installed. Most new ones are rated for LEDs, but maybe he had an old dimmer switch, or you supplied one that wasn’t rated correctly for LEDs. It’s possible, if you take the cover plate off so you can see the switch, that you may be able to tell if the switch is rated for dimmers, but not all are marked. Check out this example of a dimmer rated for LEDs.
by Robin Renner, Director of Construction
Are dings and dents in your wall starting to stick out like a sore thumb?
With the coronavirus keeping most of us homebound these days, you are probably noticing things around your house that need fixing. If you’ve got extra time on your hands, why not learn and practice some new skills and give simple repairs a go. I’m taking this time to start or complete projects around my own home, and I thought I could share some of my favorite links for DIY skills.
Let’s start with some basic drywall skills.
Working with drywall gets easier the more you learn and practice. I recommend checking out Home Depot and Lowe’s websites, which have sections focusing on Do-It-Yourself skills. You’ll find short videos and guides for home repair and maintenance. Start with the drywall repair section. I’m always on the lookout for tricks, tips, and new ideas to improve my drywall skills. I guarantee you’ll learn something, whether you’re a beginner or an old hand at drywall repair!
The videos linked below have tips and techniques that will really up your game. When you do pick up the drywall tools, you’ll be better prepared for a smooth and flawless drywall patch.
Home Depot: How to Patch Drywall
Lowe’s: How to Patch and Repair Drywall
Vancouver Carpenter: Taping and Mudding 101
Also take a moment to familiarize yourself with the jargon of drywall. Download my Drywall Glossary with links to examples, so you will be in the know.
Now get to work and watch a few of the videos. Then, get out your tools and practice repairing the cracks, dings, and holes in your own house.
Post a photo of your work on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and tag us @yachaddc.
A HandyMensch volunteer repairs a damaged ceiling
by Alex Ransenberg
JBG SMITH, one of Yachad's ongoing corporate partners, joined us mid-September to repair a home in DC. Skilled JBG SMITH team members installed a new kitchen, including cabinets, sink, countertops, and a new vinyl tile floor, while unskilled team members painted multiple rooms and removed basement carpet that had become soiled due to sewage backup issues. Alex Ransenberg looks back at their community service day with us.
I had the privilege of joining Yachad in renovating an existing house in Southeast DC for an afternoon in which I found a combination of teamwork and labor resulted in an improved home for the owners. When I drove over the 11th St. Bridge into Southeast, I realized just how sheltered I was from an entirely different DC than the one that I am used to, living in Northwest on U St. I was pleasantly surprised to find the neighborhood quaint with an abundance of nature surrounding the area. Once I walked into the house, it was clear why some level of renovations was necessary.
Walking up to the house I was greeted by the Yachad organizers who were preparing for the afternoon crew, while the morning shift enjoyed lunch. There was a brief introduction to the remaining work that needed to get done and then we were on our own. One of the great aspects of Yachad is that whether you are acquainted with the people you are volunteering with or not, you all will know each other by the end of the project. Before the project, I was working with strangers and by the end, I had made new acquaintances. The work was physically demanding, but we knew we were making a difference by helping improve someone’s life.
After a few hours of painting new walls, I found myself exhausted by the work but satisfied by what we just accomplished. We were fortunate to be able to meet the owners which, I think added to our desire to produce good work. They were so appreciative of what we were doing and were excited for their renovated home.
Although this was only the second Yachad project I have worked on, one thing stayed consistent at both: that by working together, there are no limits to how impactful an organization can be. For volunteers, Yachad provides an opportunity to meet neighbors they might not otherwise get to know and to literally lend a hand with physically demanding, yet satisfying work. For homeowners, Yachad provides access to a better home and life. Overall, by bringing people from different backgrounds together, we are seeing other perspectives and creating a more understanding community.