`Blitz Day' pulls together tools for better lives

Saturday's volunteer event will improve homes for the poor, elderly and disabled

April 26, 2006|By JAMIE STIEHM | JAMIE STIEHM,SUN REPORTER

With up to 800 hammer-wielding, ladder-carrying and paintbrush-toting volunteers converging Saturday on 20 homes across Anne Arundel County, no wonder it's called "Blitz Day."

The 15th annual event organized by the local chapter of Rebuilding Together - formerly called Christmas in April - will bring volunteers directly to people who need help where they live.

Diane R. Evans, executive director of the affiliate, said this weekend's projects in Glen Burnie, South County, Annapolis, Severn, Brooklyn Park, Pasadena and Laurel will help homeowners who are elderly, disabled or low-income - or all three. Sidewalks are repaired; light fixtures and windows are replaced. Some might need bars and railings to help them navigate the halls of their houses; others might have a damp basement or leaking roof.

"We're working with the poorest of the poor," Evans said. "We work on a need that they are unable to address or afford themselves."

Evans and the nonprofit board choose recipients from a pool of applicants - required to have a total household income of less than $30,000. "Safe, warm and dry" is one of Rebuilding Together's mantras. The nonprofit group, which has about 250 chapters, is based in Washington.

Churches, banks, schools, civic groups such as the Rotary Club and other business groups form part of the network of sponsors and volunteers, Evans said.

A former County Council member, Evans, 57, chose the leaders of each project - those who act as captains of the site work, supervising teams of laborers, and those who act as ambassadors on behalf of homeowners.

Andy Mortenson, slated to be a house team captain this weekend, said it will be his 12th year with the organization, though he moved from Annapolis to Northern Virginia about three years ago. He became involved because he met a woman he wanted to date who was going to the event the next day.

This weekend, Mortenson, 45, is tackling the toughest project, Evans said.

"I'm running a project in Glen Burnie, a foreclosed and gutted house now belonging to a single mom," said Mortenson, a former board member. "It's a 1,000- square-foot, single-story house - free-standing."

Directing a team of 25 to 50 volunteers, Mortenson, a general contractor, expects his team to rebuild the garage, frame a new laundry room, get a new roof under way, repaint the interior and put new flooring in the kitchen.

"People have cried and told me they can't believe the transformation in one day," he said. "That's why I'll do this until the day I die."

jamie.stiehm@baltsun.com

The workday begins at 8 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m. For more information or to volunteer, call 410-923-9992.

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