What a difference a day makes

November 06, 1994|By JoAnne C. Broadwater | JoAnne C. Broadwater,Special to The Sun

Dozens of employees of Landmark Homes traded their suits, ties, dresses and high heels for sweat pants, T-shirts and tennis shoes Wednesday as they pitched in to help construction crews repair a 73-year-old woman's tiny bungalow near Forest Hill.

"This makes you feel good about putting in a day's work," said Mike Riggs, a salesman who spent his workday hauling cinder blocks and helping to remove old roofing shingles. "It's a chance to get out and do something different and make a contribution."

The project included an estimated $25,000 in repairs that were made free for homeowner Agnes Robinson as part of Landmark Homes' Building Friendship program, an annual charitable effort the builder has coordinated for seven years.

Landmark, which has its offices in Towson but does most of its construction in Harford County, closed Wednesday so that all of its employees could work on the renovations. Accountants, salespeople, production workers, service technicians, receptionists and secretaries converged on Mrs. Robinson's house for the marathon effort.

Office employees worked side-by-side with professional subcontractors to replace the roof with charcoal gray shingles, remodel the bathroom, replace floors and ceilings, install carpet and rain gutters, add interior doors, upgrade the electrical system and build a deck off Mrs. Robinson's kitchen.

"This is wonderful," said Mrs. Robinson, who had bypass surgery last summer and lives on a fixed income. "It's going to mean a lot to me. I'm so happy."

"I just can't believe it," added Thelma Clayton, one of Mrs. Robinson's daughters. "I've never seen so many wonderful people. This is really going to help her out. It's going to be a big load off her mind."

Each year, Landmark Homes works with Harford County officials to identify a resident whose home needs costly and extensive repairs that the owner can't afford.

"Harford County has been very good to us," said Richard Yaffe, one of Landmark Homes' owners. "We want to take some time out to try to help someone who is a little less fortunate than us."

"No matter what the economy is, we can help to make somebody's life a little better," added his partner, Gary Houston. "We want to give something back. It's a big job and we have to work quickly. But it's a nice atmosphere and the excitement builds once we get here."

More than 30 area building contractors and suppliers, bankers and other businesses donated labor, materials and money to help renovate the one-story home where Mrs. Robinson has lived since 1958. She raised five children there with her late husband, James.

Landmark Homes employee Grant Wyche, a service technician, coordinated and supervised the reconstruction effort from start to finish.

"I feel pretty good that we could come out and do something like this," Mr. Wyche said. "I'm very excited. When I first saw the house, my heart just dropped. It feels good to help someone in need. Everyone in the company loves it."

"It's a morale booster," agreed June Fritz, the office administrator, who was busily taking photographs of the workers. "It's such a good feeling to know you're helping someone out."

Anne Hall, Landmark's assistant comptroller, shoveled old roofing shingles into a wheelbarrow and hauled them away.

"I think it's very worthwhile and it makes me feel good to help here," Mrs. Hall said. "It's something I have looked forward to doing. And it's nice to get everybody in the company working on the same project."

On the roof overhead, Mrs. Hall's boss, Robert Cantor -- the company's vice president of finance -- was stripping off old shingles.

"I'm not crazy about heights," Mr. Cantor said. "But I'll do whatever is necessary. I love this. It's good to help those who are less fortunate and to give back to people who can't afford things."

"It's really satisfying," added Pam Sites, a permit administrator, who helped carry furniture out of the house, remove old roofing from the site and lug old rain gutters to a trash bin. "It's great just being able to help people."

Most of the work was completed Wednesday, although some preparatory and finishing tasks were done on Tuesday and Thursday.

In addition, workers from the Harford County Weatherization program will conduct a home energy audit for Mrs. Robinson, and make related repairs and install insulation as needed, said Thomas Kenny, that program's coordinator.

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