Judy several times, I get as much out of this as they do … I’m a big believer in paying it forward. Hopefully, if I’m at the age to where I need some help, there’s people going to be around to help me.”
Capitol Heights was another service area where volunteers gathered at the home of Hilda Smith, an 82-year-old who is paralyzed and wheelchair bound due to a massive stroke she suffered 10 years ago. House captain John Weaver, a volunteer firefighter with the Capitol Heights Volunteer Fire Department, assisted with inspections around the area and selected Smith’s home to receive repair services.
As part of the program’s inspection process, Weaver said he goes out in November and chooses qualified homes that can be repaired within one day.
“Some homes don’t have any heat, they don’t have any water and things like that so we try to see if we can help out,” said Weaver. “We want them to stay in their home just to make it work for them.”
Volunteers from Weaver’s department, the Prince George’s Fire Department, Prince George’s Community College (PGCC) and AARP Suitland Chapter 939 worked together to perform a lengthy list of repairs from installing floodlights outside of the home to placing a new vanity and toilet in the basement, Weaver said.
“I really appreciate it. They are so sweet and they are so kind to do this for an elderly person,” said Audrey Smith, who stays with her mom to take care of her. “It’s a wonderful feeling for me. It’s a wonderful feeling for her [my mom]. She thought that they were going to take her home from her but they [reassured] her that they wanted her to stay in her home.”
Tahia Shendy, a first-year college student who attends PGCC, was very excited to have an opportunity to volunteer and be a part of the program. Shendy said doing the renovations on the Smith’s home was a lot of fun.
“Everyone gets together, we’re all helping out, we’re making jokes and working with the people who live here [as well as] other volunteers we don’t know from different organizations,” she said. “It’s like being a part of a little family for a day where we can fix a house, make somebody’s life a little bit better. … To fix something so personal to people is really important and to get to be a part of that project and make a little legacy. … It’ll be nice to know that other people can use this house.”
Having participated in the Christmas in April program for the past 27 years, Weaver said the organization is one that he cherishes and enjoys.
“It feels outstanding to be able to help somebody, [especially] seeing the family’s reaction once everything is done and being grateful for what they got,” he said.
Like Hilda Smith, homeowner Mattie Jackson is also a senior citizen who is wheelchair bound. Jackson’s son, Anthony Green, is a disabled veteran suffering from spinal injuries. The home, located in District Heights, was worked on by a team of volunteers from the Joint Base Andrews (JBA) 11th Civil Engineer and Logistics Readiness squadrons, Cheltenham United Methodist Church and Berean Baptist Church of Clinton.
Twenty-two year seasoned house captain, Walter Poliansky, partnered with fellow house captain Craig Newman to make sure Jackson’s quality of life was improved.
“It’s not about me. It’s a community effort,” said Poliansky, a retired Air Force chief master sergeant. “The Air Force has been an advocate for this program for many years. They’ve been out here in full force.”
Master Sgt. Daryl Bagley from JBA’s 11th LRS, who recently had a permanent change of station from Germany, said volunteering is not about the recognition. For Bagely, it’s about serving others, just as he has done in the military for over 22 years, he said.
“We came out here to support Ms. Mattie and make sure that her quality of life is a little bit better,” Bagley said. “Nothing about this is going on my record or whatever. I just like doing this. … I’ve been here for about a year so I’m just trying to do more and whatever I can to give back to the community.”
For other volunteers like Chiara Selby Griffith, choir director at Cheltenham United Baptist, she said it’s about extending the love of Jesus Christ to people who need a little helping hand.
“It’s a rather selfish thing to do because what comes back is always so much greater,” said Griffith.
Green said he and his family received early Christmas gifts thanks to the volunteers who not only helped restore their home, but their hope as well.
“We lost all our stuff because of the pipes that burst in the wintertime,” he said. “The carpet was destroyed, most of our belongings, personal stuff, our furniture, bed, couch — we lost everything. Christmas in April stepped in and replaced almost everything. It’s a relief because without them, the house would look vacant and now it doesn’t.”
Since the program’s inception in 1989, Prince George’s County Christmas in April has rehabilitated 2,501 homes with more than 84,000 volunteers, and completed an estimated $44,018,000 worth of free repairs, according to program executive director Mary Kucharski.
“It’s awesome. It lets you know that this country is really about caring,” Mona said. “All you need is a little bit of opportunity and we open the door and you see the flood of humans helping others.”
Mona Electric Group, Inc. President and CEO David F. McKay, right, shakes hands with homeowner George Joseph of Clinton after volunteers from McKay’s company chimed in to help rehabilitate his home during Prince George’s 28th annual countywide Christmas in April program on Saturday. Joseph, who sings and plays guitar in The Sweetwater Band, and his wife have lived in the home for nearly 30 years.
Prince George’s County Christmas in April program volunteers Andrew Hackett and Heather Dois, both of Cheltenham, assist house captain Walter Poliansky, far left, with laying down wood floors in the living room of Mattie Jackson’s home in District Heights on Saturday. Poliansky, a retired Air Force chief master sergeant, also received help from volunteers from the Joint Base Andrews 11th Civil Engineer and Logistics Readiness squadrons, Cheltenham United Methodist Church and Berean Baptist Church of Clinton. Poliansky said about 240 manhours were spent into rehabilitating Jackson’s home.
Doug House of La Plata, an outreach chairman at Cheltenham United Methodist Church, upgrades the kitchen sink for homeowner Mattie Jackson who lives in District Heights. House is one of 3,200 people who volunteered their services for Prince George’s County’s 28th annual Christmas in April program on Saturday. About $1.9 million worth of free repairs were completed on 81 homes throughout the county this year.