Mike McMullin and his colleagues in the home construction industry say they "have fallen in love" with Hazel Clarke. So much so that they are donating their time and skills to make sure the 75-year-old Arbutus resident has a safe and well-maintained home in which to live.
Mrs. Clarke and more than 50 other fixed-income elderly residents in the Baltimore area are the beneficiaries of a new project called "Senior Housepitality."
The program, organized by the Home Builders Association of Maryland, the Maryland Office on Aging and Hechinger Co., kicked off yesterday at Mrs. Clarke's two-story brick rowhouse. Throughout this month, more than 2,000 volunteer laborers will lend their skills.
Member companies from the home builders' group are providing the labor. The Hechinger Co. is providing more than $100,000 worth of materials, and the Maryland Office on Aging has located the homeowners in need of help.
"It makes a real difference," said Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who attended the program's kick-off. "They are little things that you don't think about until it's you."
At Mrs. Clarke's home, workmen already have installed louder doorbells so she can hear them chime better. They also put in new smoke alarms. They plan to do some painting, put up new rain spouts and replace insulation.
Some of the improvements at other homes will be more extensive. Workers plan to install plumbing in an Anne Arundel County home that has no running water.
"I'm so happy about it," said Mrs. Clarke, who has lived in her house for 37 years. The house has fallen into disrepair, she said, but she wants to stay there.
"My roots are here," she said, as workmen began scraping paint along the eaves and sizing up other maintenance work and safety-related improvements.
"This is a nicely kept home," Mr. McMullin said. But Mrs. Clarke, whose husband died 22 years ago, has not been able to keep up with basic maintenance, he said.
Mr. McMullin's company, Pulte Homes, is supervising the work at Mrs. Clarke's house. About 400 companies are participating in the work on 55 homes. The program's kick-off coincided with the announcement of a similar public-private effort in Baltimore and Baltimore County. That program, called "Christmas in April," involves about 2,000 home-improvement workers donating their skills to 77 elderly and handicapped residents on April 25.
"Christmas in April" programs also are being launched in the Washington, Philadelphia, Boston and other major cities. This is the program's third year in Baltimore.
"We get a lot of families out" to work on the homes, said Scott Robertson, a spokesman for "Christmas in April."
"It creates a phenomenal sense of community," said Mr. Robertson.