RE­PAIRS

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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.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF CHIARA SELBY GRIF­FITH, CHEL­TENHAM UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

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.

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