Evelyn Stammer figured she'd just have to live with a leaky roof in a ranch-style house that turned chilly each winter and steamy each summer.
For one thing, the 74-year-old Severn widow suffers from a bad back and poor eyesight and can't make home repairs herself.
And with only $626 from Social Security coming in each month, the great-grandmother has little money to spare.
Enter several employees of Mandrin Construction in Pasadena, Jerry's Siding and Roofing in Glen Burnie and American Baltimore Home Insulation.
"They are all so nice, these fellas," Mrs. Stammer said.
It's no wonder she feels that way.
Courtesy of Senior Housepitality, a partnership between the state Office on Aging, the Home Builders Association of Maryland and Hechinger Co., Mrs. Stammer will get about $5,000 worth of improvements to the home where she has lived with her ailing brother for seven years.
Using Hechinger-donated supplies, the businesses, members of the homebuilders association, have volunteered to repair the roof, insulate the attic, replace the front and storm doors, clean the aluminum siding, install smoke detectors and fit the hot-water heater with a blanket.
"I'm tickled to death," Mrs. Stammer said Thursday, as workers from American Baltimore began blowing 10 inches of insulation into her poorly insulated attic. "I think it's wonderful. This is the only thing I ever got for free."
Mrs. Stammer is one of 55 senior citizens from Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Cecil, Howard and Harford counties and Baltimore city selected by the state Office on Aging for free home repairs, said Caroline Ellis, a housing specialist there.
The office started the program about a year and a half ago after approaching the homebuilders with the idea, Ms. Ellis said. Hechinger soon came aboard as well, offering $100,000 worth of construction supplies.
Aging officials screened about 117 applicants, looking for senior citizens with low incomes who were most in need of home repairs. Officials were forced to turn down some jobs that were beyond the volunteers' capacity, Ms. Ellis said.
So far, workers have finished jobs on 35 of the 55 selected homes, including four in Annapolis, Ms. Ellis said.
"These economic times are terrible for working people, as well as for seniors," she said. "To get this outpouring from businesses under stress is amazing."
Jon Ferguson, remodeling manager for Mandrin Construction, said company president Milt Horn offered to oversee the work on the Stammer home and provide labor to replace the front door and cover the hot-water heater.
"This is in our community," he said. "We feel a responsibility to our community too."
He said the work on the Stammer home should be completed today.