Christ­mas comes early to Charles County

650 vol­un­teers help re­store the homes of el­derly and dis­abled

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By AN­DREW RICHARD­SON arichard­son@somd­news.com

The Christ­mas in April pro­gram helped ren­o­vate and re­store 16 dif­fer­ent homes in Charles County on Satur­day with ap­prox­i­mately 650 vol­un­teers pitch­ing in to help el­derly, dis­abled and low-in­come res­i­dents.

This year marks the 25th an­niver­sary of Christ­mas in April in the county and, to date, the pro­gram has re­paired 573 homes with more than $13 mil­lion of do­nated funds and more than 30,000 vol­un­teers.

This year, the av­er­age bud­get per house was $2,000 and two of the 16 houses had to­tal roof re- place­ments.

At Krista Gar­rett’s home in Wal­dorf, 22 vol­un­teers worked to help re­store the home which had fallen into dis­re­pair.

“It’s amaz­ing. I am just com­pletely over­whelmed,” Gar­rett said. “My hus­band passed away in 2009 and I’m dis­abled, and since then I feel my house has been fall­ing down around my ears.”

Vol­un­teers in­stalled a new garage door, dish­washer, mi­crowave, fenc­ing, re­placed all the elec­tri­cal out­lets and much more. Mem­bers

of the Charles County Fire and EMS As­so­ci­a­tion also came by to help, in­stalling five smoke de­tec­tors through­out the home. The en­tire prop­erty un­der­went re­pair with all vol­un­teers car­ry­ing out their as­signed task.

“I didn’t ex­pect this. This is just in­cred­i­ble,” Gar­rett said. “They’re fix­ing ab­so­lutely ev­ery­thing. It is truly a bless­ing.”

Gar­rett thanked the vol­un­teers who made this pos­si­ble, and es­pe­cially her fel­low parish­ioners, Paul and Dee Stock­man, who rec­om­mended that she ap­ply for ren­o­va­tions through Christ­mas in April.

Dee, the house cap­tain in charge, and her hus­band have been in­volved with the pro­gram for a decade now.

“It’s re­ally ex­cit­ing ev­ery year,” Dee said. “There’s a lot of be­hind the scenes work, a lot. It can be stress­ful. … This is our tenth year and we just ab­so­lutely love do­ing it.”

And Dee could not thank the vol­un­teers enough.

“The vol­un­teers are ab­so­lutely won­der­ful. We couldn’t do it with­out them,” she said. “My team lead­ers, oh my gosh ... These guys are top-notch.”

Sandie Branan, Christ- mas in April trea­surer, has been in­volved with the pro­gram since it be­gan in Charles County 25 years ago.

“When you’ve helped a se­nior that strug­gles and help them stay in their home, it re­ally mat­ters,” she said. “They want to stay in their home; they had their chil­dren there; they were mar­ried there.”

U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md. 5th) also toured the Gar­rett home, en­cour­ag­ing and thank­ing the vol­un­teers.

“Christ­mas is about giv­ing and tak­ing care of neigh­bors,” Hoyer said. “It is such an ex­tra­or­di­nary pro­gram … the com­mu­nity comes to­gether.”

“It is def­i­nitely Christ­mas,” Gar­rett said, watch­ing the vol­un­teers as they worked. “It re­ally is.”

STAFF PHOTO BY AN­DREW RICHARD­SON

On Satur­day, Christ­mas in April cel­e­brated its 25th an­niver­sary in Charles County. Since it be­gan, the non­profit group has re­paired 573 homes with over $13 mil­lion in do­na­tions.

STAFF PHOTOS BY AN­DREW RICHARD­SON

Christ­mas in April vol­un­teers Sierra and Carlos do their part to help com­pletely ren­o­vate a Wal­dorf home on Satur­day.

Out­side a house be­ing ren­o­vated by Christ­mas in April vol­un­teers, U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, Christ­mas in April trea­surer Sandie Branan, and pres­i­dent Alvin Ste­wart re­ceive a do­na­tion from Unit­edHealth­care to help re­pair homes of the el­derly and dis­abled.

On Satur­day, Christ­mas in April cel­e­brated its 25th an­niver­sary in Charles County. Since it be­gan, the non­profit group has re­paired 573 homes with more than $13 mil­lion in do­na­tions.

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