EVELYN VON LINDENBERG — at 81 frail, small and hard of hearing -- had been praying for the day when good Samaritans would come to fix her two-bedroom ranch house, which needed a sloping awning fixed, a leaking gutter repaired and a termite-ridden doorway replaced.
Close to 30 people from the Glen Mar United Methodist Church flocked to her Ellicott City house Saturday to answer her prayer. Armed with hammers, paintbrushes, elbow grease and good intentions, they slapped fresh white paint on the garage, put up new shower curtains, mowed the lawn and trimmed the bushes.And they built a handrail by the front steps so Von Lindenberg, who uses a cane, can leave her doorstep without fear of falling.
"Praise the Lord for it all," she said, tears welling up in her crinkled eyes. "Nobody has done anything like this for me before. Theyput in new woodwork, washed my windows. I never had anybody who treated me so good."
A sunny -- and then rainy -- Saturday morning found more than 700 volunteers who pitched in to patch up 27 houses around the county as part of Christmas in April, a national program to repair the homes of the low-income, disabled and elderly.
Nationwide, 62,000 volunteers fixed 2,400 homes in 26 states, according to organization figures.
"I think it went fantastic, particularly for itsfirst year," said Neil Gaffney, chapter president. "We've had lessons learned for our first year and we know what to do next year."
Weekend homebuilders and volunteers came from all walks of life -- and all parts of the state. Columbia health insurance consultant Steve James found himself caulking 62-year-old Beverly Stephens' three-level Elkridge house.
"I've never exactly done this on my own window," said James as he stood on a ladder, meticulously applying caulk to a window pane. "But other people have showed me what to do."
Others in the home construction and improvement trades volunteered their services. Jeffrey Flagg of Joshua's Painting Service in Columbia was spackling and painting Stephens' living room walls, while electrician BenKomons of Paramount Electricity in Eldersburg was rewiring throughout the house.
"We want to put something back," said Flagg. "We workall the time for profit. It's nice to do something for an elderly person who can't afford it."
"It's an excellent program," said Stephens, a retired social worker who's living in the house her parents bought. "I'll feel a lot safer now."
At 90-year-old Hattie Burley's Laurel home, 15 Columbia Rotary volunteers installed a new propane gas stove, pitched a white picket fence, laid out new kitchen tiles andplanted flowers and greenery in the yard. The job was so big, it spilled over to Sunday, according to Paula Blake, a schools administrator and Rotary member.