Aberdeen area is focus of rehabbing project

Volunteers help repair homes of those not able to

April 27, 2003|By Annie Peroutka | Annie Peroutka,SUN STAFF

A single mother catches her young children eating the paint that's peeling off the wall. She needs to fix the paint, but she doesn't have the time, skills or money to get the job done. Who does she turn to?

The answer is Rebuilding Together Harford County.

"It's an organization that targets homeowners that are elderly, disabled and single mothers, who're not able to maintain their houses on their own. We want to help them," said Jessica Schwing, an AmeriCorps VISTA worker.

Every April, the Rebuilding Together project goes into full swing in the county. This weekend, the volunteers will work on 18 houses in Aberdeen.

This year's 300 to 400 volunteers, ranging from teen-agers to grandparents, rolled up their sleeves to help with a number of chores yesterday.

"We ask the homeowners to prioritize what needs to be done," Schwing said.

The list of jobs is nearly endless - painting, landscaping, cleaning gutters, plumbing, washing windows, carpentry, roofing, fixing decks and so on.

Homeowners, who applied for the help in October, assist in whatever way they can.

Besides the home-repair tasks, volunteers also ensure the houses are safe by installing wheelchair ramps and door locks.

Schwing said many volunteers return each year on Rebuilding Day because they like "making a huge difference in one day."

Two hundred John Carroll High School students experienced that feeling April 15 when they volunteered for the Rebuilding Together community project.

"We do our community project, which is a good way to get youth involved," Schwing said. "We like to involve younger peo ple in our projects."

This year's student volunteers spent the day in the Swan Meadows neighborhood. The students lugged 250 bags of trash out the area.

Rebuilding Together takes a lot of planning.

"This year, 23 board members organized the event in addition to 34 house and skill captains, about 275 house workers, as well as numerous lunch makers, packers, distributors and cookie bakers," Schwing said.

Besides the string of active volunteers, Rebuilding Together board members have recruited 13 sponsors. The sponsors range from Home Depot to the Harford Mall to the Aberdeen Church of Christ.

Each sponsor donated at least $2,000 to the project. This funding is crucial to Rebuilding Together because it determines the number of houses that can be served.

Rebuilding Together is focused on the future. Leaders are recruiting new board members to help organize projects at monthly meetings. They also are seeking people to work on fund raising and publicity.

"We want to increase volunteerism in Harford County," Schwing said.

Although Rebuilding Together focuses on a different area of Harford County each year, the organizers would someday like to work on houses throughout the entire county on Rebuilding Day. But, for now, they're taking small steps to help out in Aberdeen.

To learn about Rebuilding Together projects across the country, log on to www.rebuildingtogether.org, contact the Harford County office at RebldgTogether@aol.com or call 410-836-3366.

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