Homes repaired for elderly, disabled


April 25, 1993|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

The one-day blitz motto is a modest one for Christmas in April volunteers who launched the new chapter's first event yesterday.

About 100 volunteers spent yesterday fixing up five homes belonging to people who are elderly, handicapped or otherwise unable to get the work done alone.

But several of the volunteers plan to return this week to finish what couldn't be done by the time it started raining in the late afternoon.

At many of the homes, the first step was clearing away accumulated garbage, crates, broken appliances and furniture and piles of wood, to make way for the construction improvements.

The work they did will allow homeowners like Vernon Kuhn, 77, of Watertank Road in Manchester, to stay in the houses they own. Without the donated work, Mr. Kuhn said, he probably would have had to sell and move.

"At my age, I'd rather stay," said Mr. Kuhn, who has lived in his brick rancher since 1956.

Volunteers yesterday replaced the roof, helped clean the interior and removed two large pine trees that were intruding on the entrance and front window.

Rain or shine, Frances Waltz' house on 91 Pennsylvania Ave. in Westminster was going to take about two weeks to finish, said Sam Maccherola, board president for Christmas in April of Carroll County.

The blue clapboard house was falling apart inside and out, and the rear section had burned in a fire two years ago.

"At the time of the fire, I didn't have any insurance," said Ms. Waltz, 45, who has been living with her parents on Wimert Avenue since the fire.

Although at least one contractor suggested Ms. Waltz tear down the whole house, she doesn't want to, she said.

"I hate to see something torn down and destroyed if you can save it," she said.

"We've come to the conclusion it's worth the time and effort," Mr. Maccherola said.

Yesterday, workers inside painted the multicolored walls a neutral white, built a bathroom, put in a new kitchen and installed smoke detectors in rooms.

Outside, other volunteers tore down the burned section, and cleared away rubble and garbage hauled out of the house.

Others prepared to put mauve aluminum siding over the badly peeling clapboard, which has several colors of paint on it.

Like other Christmas in April chapters around the country, the Carroll organizers spent weeks beforehand getting donated materials and cash and volunteers to do the actual work.

Friday, contractor and Christmas in April board member Mike Geiger of Eldersburg spent the day buying supplies and materials and taking them to the work sites.

"I started at 6 o'clock in the morning, and I'm still going," he said, adding he dropped off materials at 2 a.m. to one house.

He waited until Friday, because the organization tried to get as much donated materials as possible, then fill in the gaps using the cash donations.

By yesterday, Mr. Maccherola estimated the donations in cash and materials to come to about $12,000 to $15,000.

One nice surprise was a call Mr. Maccherola got a few weeks ago from the BMW Bikers of Metropolitan Washington, which asked if he could use about 15 members to help out, even though none of them live in Carroll County.

"I was in the room with Sam when he got the call," said volunteer Pat McCourt of Eldersburg. "He said, 'I'll take 'em.' "

The club members rode their motorcycles up to Manchester yesterday and got to work on Mr. Kuhn's house.

BMW Bikers member Elsie Smith of Burke, Va., said her club wanted to find a Christmas in April project where all 15 could work on one house. She called a few chapters until she got hold of Mr. Maccherola.

Other volunteers came from a range of backgrounds: Carrolltowne Elementary School Principal Nancy Chapin, retired Westminster physician Richard Dalrymple, Lehigh Portland Cement plant manager David Roush and Carroll County General Hospital development director Suzanne Lee.

They were part of the team coordinated by the Westminster Rotary Club to work on the home of Gladys Humphrey and her daughter, Beulah Chester, on Westminster Street in Manchester.

The house has no indoor bathroom; the two women have gotten bywith an outhouse behind the home and a bathtub in the cellar.

Rotary Club members joined with skilled craftspeople, excavators and teens to clear wood and debris from the yard, build new porch steps and a wheelchair ramp and install a septic tank.

Mrs. Humphrey, 80, has been unable to keep the house up as she used to, since suffering a series of heart problems and at least four strokes in the last 11 years, said Ms. Chester, who is 59 and has a disabled arm.

Her brother was injured in a truck accident recently, and the family has been unable to do the work around Mrs. Humphrey's house, Ms. Chester said.

As she talked, 15-year-old Tim Storck of Westminster hauled rusted pails and other debris from the yard, so that an excavation crew could get the septic tank up the hill.

Tim, whose stepfather is a Rotarian, volunteered as community service in preparation for his confirmation at St. John Catholic Church.

"She kept it nice when she lived here," Ms. Chester said of her mother's healthier years. "She had the most beautiful garden. She did her own lawn and everything."

She stopped Tim as he hauled away what turned out to be an antique wooden hand plow.

"I want to save that. She used to do her garden with that," Ms. Chester said.

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