THE SOUNDS of hammers and electric saws filled the air last weekend as more than 1,000 volunteers joined forces with Christmas in April Howard County to paint, clean and repair 35 homes across the county.
Saturday was designated National Rebuilding Day, sponsored by Rebuilding Together with Christmas in April, a nonprofit volunteer organization that restores and revitalizes houses of those with low incomes.
"The majority of projects that we work on are for elderly or disabled low-to-moderate-income homeowners," said Jeff Harris, a board member of Christmas in April Howard County.
"We do everything from painting and landscaping to extensive construction," he added. "As people age and their needs change, they have difficulty getting around their home. We've had to build ramps so they can have access and widen doorways for people with wheelchairs. We install grab bars in the showers. We've had people who have literally been trapped in their own homes. We give them the ability to have mobility in their homes."
Carole MacPhee, president of the local chapter, welcomed nearly 80 high school students who gathered at the Howard County government building on Gateway Drive at 8 a.m. Saturday to receive their assignments for the day.
"The National Honor Society at Oakland Mills High School decided we wanted to give back to the community, so that's why I'm here," said Andrew Croner, 17, before boarding a bus that would take him to his assignment. Student volunteer coordinators for the project were David Weeks, Sandra French and Bita Dayhoff.
"What we're finding this year is there are more and more houses in the heart of Columbia that are in need of our services," MacPhee said.
The Columbia Association sponsored a townhouse owned by Jan Yocum de Calderon, 67, near the hospital. Yocum de Calderon has 15 children, 10 of whom were adopted, ranging in age from 14 to 44. Three of the children live at home, and two have special needs. "Having children with special needs sometimes leads to holes in the walls and doors pulled off the hinges," she said.
Yocum de Calderon said she was humbled that others would give up a Saturday to help her family. "I'm overwhelmed by everything they are doing. I know if I had to pay for it in the real world, there's no way I could afford to do this," she said.
Warren Raymond, assistant director for open-space management for the Columbia Association, was house captain for Yocum de Calderon's home. Raymond and his team showed up at 8 a.m. to replace the kitchen counter and floor, repair two bathrooms, install a shower, replace the front door, weed and plant flowers in the yard and repair holes in the walls.
Seven hours later, the 19 members of the Columbia Association team had made remarkable progress. The front of the house sparkled with fresh paint, a new front door and shutters. The kitchen floor had been installed, as had a shower insert in the master bedroom. Volunteers were still at work replacing interior doors, patching holes and installing towel bars in the bathrooms.
"It's a dream, an absolute dream," Yocum de Calderon said. "I don't have the words to tell all these people how grateful I am."
"I think it's part of what we're supposed to do for the community," said Donna DuPree, director of marketing for the Columbia Association. "That's what CA is supposed to be about, what the community is supposed to be about, what Columbia is supposed to be all about. If somebody needs help, people should help."
Information on Christmas in April Howard County: 410-381- 3338.
Students at Running Brook Elementary School participated in the Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement competition last month at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. Running Brook Elementary School was named the elementary school regional champion in the preliminary competition and won two trophies in the statewide competition last week.
Students in the MESA group are: Alejandra Rodriguez, Emani Williams, Michael Hunter, Andrew Tomlinson, Jade Dunton, Wendy Perez, Phillippe Kappeler, Dajuan Priest, Shianna Smith, Ryan Williams, Aerica Jackson, Thurston Clay, Valentina Alarcon, Jessica Kendrick, Patrice Robinson, Blessing Bennett, Shaneequah Perry, Phillip Kehe, Kourtney Holland and Sophie Reynolds.
Music students participating in the Orff instrument group at the school performed at the Family Involvement Conference at Turf Valley Resort last month. The students, led by vocal music teacher David Foley, played rhythm instruments for the audience.
The students are: Noah Bennett Aaron Greene, Matthew Higgins, Ashley Kusiolek, Phillip Kehe, Colin Lyman, Kyle Reinhardt, Carol Raines, Patrice Robinson, Rebecca Zomaya, Emani Williams, Emily Shipp, Sofija Canavan, Wei Xue, Ryan Williams, Guadalupe Carrillo and Latisha Davis.