Excitement is building toward Christmas in April

Carroll agency rehabs homes for poor, elderly

April 23, 2004|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The tidy, cozy rooms filled with family keepsakes show the pride Simeon and Jewell Brown take in the Union Bridge home where they have lived for 35 years. She points to the polished cabinets he helped install in the kitchen where she cooks all their meals. He says he has been "keeping up with things, until lately."

"But we can't anymore," she said, finishing the thought for her husband of 67 years.

The couple, both in their 90s, readily acknowledge that they can no longer maintain the bungalow in optimum condition. The paint is peeling. They have covered several windows with plastic to ward off the weather. A railing would make the porch safer, and the 70-year-old home could use new screens and a storm door.

"We can't keep up with home repairs," said Jewell Brown. "Everything is too expensive for us to afford, but we really enjoy our home."

The 12th annual Christmas in April Rebuilding Day in Carroll tomorrow will help the Browns and 10 other homeowners and one nonprofit agency. The Carroll charity - affiliated with Rebuilding Together, a national organization dedicated to home rehabilitation for low-income, elderly and handicapped homeowners - has 150 volunteers set to arrive on doorsteps throughout the county with gallons of paint, hammers and even windows, flooring and doors.

Similar scenes with Christmas in April volunteers will play out in counties throughout the metropolitan area and in Baltimore City. Charity chapters in Frederick, Montgomery and Prince George's counties have also scheduled repair projects for their neediest homeowners.

"There is always this one constant with all the chapters," said Dierdre Crowl, president of the Carroll organization. "All of us rebuild in our communities on the last Saturday of April."

In Carroll, volunteers will replace roofs and floorboards and in one case, a bathroom. They will install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and spruce up interior and exterior walls with fresh coats of paint. Neighbors, churches and the county Bureau of Aging were among those recommending the homeowners. Before choosing the neediest homes, Christmas in April members also review owners' applications for assistance, paying particular attention to income status, Crowl said.

At New Life for Girls, a residential facility that provides counseling, rehabilitation and training for indigent women, volunteers will renovate the offices, repair a ceiling, paint several rooms and landscape the grounds. This is the third year the volunteers have worked at the agency, which is in a farmhouse near Westminster.

"These are all things we can't afford but really need," said Gilbert Baez, the facility's assistant director. "These volunteers see our need and have a heart to help us."

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