Christmas in April brings disabled woman mobility


May 04, 2001|By Peg Adamarczyk | Peg Adamarczyk,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

THE GENEROUS SPIRIT of Christmas was evident last weekend in the small community of Green Haven, where a team of volunteers - from Christmas in April-Anne Arundel County - turned out to make Mary Beth Goonan's wish come true.

She needed an entrance ramp for her home.

Goonan, a 67-year-old disabled widow and former county special education school bus driver, relies on a wheelchair or cane, after back surgery several years ago and a recurring knee problem. "If I was having a good day, I could use the cane to try and get out; otherwise I just had to stay home," she said.

When Christmas in April stepped in, Goonan got her ramp and them some from the volunteers, who took care of some other problems at the 45-year-old house on Catherine Avenue.

The home was one of 22 in Anne Arundel slated for repairs in a one-day blitz. The county organization had initially planned to repair 15 houses this year, but with a large number of needy homeowners asking for help, the group found the money and volunteers to add a few more to the list.

Christmas in April repairs and rehabilitates homes of low-income, elderly or disabled people through the help of sponsors and volunteers throughout the United States on its National Rebuilding Day, usually the last Saturday in April. All repairs are paid for by local Christmas in April groups. Homeowners are not expected to pay, but are asked- if they are able - to work with the group on future projects.

Each year, beginning in August, the board and committees of the local program start organizing the annual endeavor. The call goes out for house applications, sponsors, house captains to manage projects, and volunteers.

"The response from the county's civic, social and corporate organizations has been fantastic," said Marilyn Henderson, board member and local event organizer. "The estimated cost of the repairs done to the 22 homes is over $242,000."

Volunteers at Goonan's home included members of the Annapolis Harley Owners Group, a contingent from Alcap Construction and employees of InsideOut Technologies. A few of the volunteers were highly skilled craftsmen; others possessed limited skills but were willing to lend a hand.

Jack Knisley, an Annapolis HOG member and veteran house captain who oversaw the Green Haven project, estimated repairs to Goonan's home to be worth $8,000 to $10,000. "All Mary Beth wanted was a ramp," Knisley said, "but our goal is to leave each home that we work on safe, warm and dry."

To meet those goals, volunteers worked at a steady pace throughout the day. Some were veteran Christmas in April volunteers, like a large contingent from the motorcycle group and those from Alcap. For others, it was their first taste of working on the one-day project.

They replaced the old kitchen floor and cabinets, and added a new water heater and ceiling vents in the bathrooms.

Volunteers assigned to outdoor duties painted and repaired windows, cleared out trash, poured new concrete steps and sidewalks, and replanted flowers beds around the perimeter of the home.

The Alcap group, with company owner Tim Collins, constructed a new back-door ramp - complete with a custom 10 mph speed-limit sign.

"I didn't think that anything this wonderful would happen to me," Goonan said with a smile, and then tears in her eyes. "All I asked for was a ramp so that I could get in and out of the house; I never expected all of this."

Since Saturday, she has had time to reflect on the effects that the home repairs have had on her daily life, and on the generosity of strangers.

"I feel like it's a brand new house," she said. "You know, I thought that I would have to win the Lotto to get the place back into shape. But I feel like I did win something better than Lotto - new friends."

Bryant Shifflett, a plumber from Riva and a Christmas in April veteran, summed it up this way for the volunteer corps: "We do it for the warm fuzzies."

Information: 410-268-8242.

Church auction tomorrow

Jenkins Memorial Church in Riviera Beach will hold a couple of special events this weekend to which the public is invited - a fund-raising auction tomorrow, and a musical program Sunday.

The auction starts at 4 p.m. and features a wide range of donated items and services. There's an admission fee of $2, which includes hors d'oeuvres.

At 7 p.m. Sunday, the community is invited to attend a performance of "Experiencing God - the Musical" by the Severna Park Baptist Church Celebrate Choir, under the direction of Linda Kay Funk.

Admission is free, but an offering will be taken.

The church is at Riviera Drive and Jenkins Road. Information: 410-360-1818 or 410-437-3072.

Northeast stage performance

The Dionysus Drama Club of Northeast High will present "A Night of One-Acts," its final production of the school year, at 7 p.m. tomorrow in the Eagles Auditorium.

The evening will feature three one act plays directed by Northeast students.

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