College students initiate AIDS house repair CENTRAL COUNTY -- Arnold * Broadneck * Severna Park * Crownsville * Millersville

November 19, 1992|By Angela Gambill | Angela Gambill,Staff Writer

It bothered Jessica Vanderhoof that AIDS patients at an Arnold outpatient house would have to walk down crumbled outdoor steps this winter to reach the washer and dryer in the basement.

So she and several classmates from Anne Arundel Community College volunteered Saturday to rebuild the steps as part of a class project on group dynamics.

"I really don't know anybody who is HIV-positive, but I wanted to help them. Nobody wants to live in a house with a shabby exterior," said Ms. Vanderhoof, 20.

While they were at it, the four women planted pink and yellow mums, tulip bulbs and small shrubs to spruce up the exterior.

The home, called Our House, was opened by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis in August and provides a home for three AIDS patients. It was the first group home in the county specifically for individuals who are HIV-positive, said the church's project coordinator, Diane Goforth.

Ms. Vanderhoof, a sophomore, organized the refurbishing with Ms. Goforth's help.

"Hopefully, our work will be very useful to the patients, making the steps much safer and easier to use," said Ms. Vanderhoof. "It also gives the place a bit of charm; it looks a bit more put together and dignified."

Class members worked for seven hours last weekend, rebuilding the steps behind the house with materials available on the property -- cinder blocks, brick and cement.

"It was trial and error," said Ms. Vanderhoof. "If one material didn't work, we tried something else. It worked out great."

Since its opening, Our House has progressed "wonderfully," says Ms. Goforth. A live-in manager tends to patients' needs; volunteers visit patients and run errands. So far, volunteers have logged 300 hours in the program, Ms. Goforth said.

The idea for a home originated last winter, when Suzanne Ochs, a nurse and church member who had experience with AIDS cases, realized her clients often had nowhere to go after being released from the hospital. Some ended up living in emergency shelters.

Ms. Ochs and a colleague pitched the idea for a group home to their 300-member church, which supported the concept.

The project received a $41,622, eight-month federal grant, with a possible extension to three years. By then, Ms. Goforth said, the church hopes to have financial support from the community.

To qualify to live in the home, residents had to have been diagnosed with AIDS or have two HIV-related conditions or illnesses. They had to require medical assistance daily. And they had to be drug-free.

The house is becoming a model for other churches in the state, Ms. Goforth said. A group of Unitarians in Prince George's County plans a similar house.

Locally, donations for the Arnold house have been generous, the director said. But Our House still needs several new or "like-new" TV sets, a VCR, a portable dishwasher and a humidifier.

In addition to the house needs, Ms. Goforth would like to start a fund for residents' personal needs.

Our House is maintained through the grant and donations. The church participates in a program with Giant grocery stores, whereby every dollar spent at a Giant earns 5 cents for the church. Our House receives $20 to $80 a week from those donations, Ms. Goforth said.

Hospice care is covered by the residents' medical insurance, Medicare or the Hospice of the Chesapeake.

"People have been wonderful," said Ms. Goforth. "Everyone has been cooperative."

Ms. Vanderhoof and the other college volunteers now plan to contact neighborhood stores for donations of shrubbery and plants to decorate the exterior of the house.

"It seemed overwhelming when we started," said Ms. Vanderhoof. "But once we got the ball rolling, we just took off with it. We're all quite pleased."

Volunteers may contact Ms. Goforth at 544-2244. Checks may be sent to the Unitarian Church HIV Project, Our House, Box 514, Arnold, Md. 21012.

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