- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 28, 2002

Barbara Robinson, 63, lives alone in her Capitol Heights house, which was badly in need of such simple maintenance as applying a coat of sealant on her porch deck so the wood wouldn't warp.
The former collections chief for the D.C. Department of Human Services retired in 1991, and various medical ailments that set in over time have made keeping her house fixed up even more difficult.
But Christmas has come early for Ms. Robinson her house was one of about 100 selected in Prince George's County to be spruced up by crew upon crew of volunteers yesterday.
"It's a miracle. It's more than a spring cleaning. It's a gift from God," Ms. Robinson said during an interview while a contingent of 13 Prince George's County Department of Environmental Resources staff members were fixing up the house on Capitol Heights Boulevard yesterday, beginning at 7 a.m.
They planted flowers, installed storm doors and a railing, painted bedrooms and put a shine on a mirrored wall that hadn't been cleaned since 1995. The volunteers also sealed the deck, which hadn't been done for about 10 years.
Known elsewhere as Rebuilding America or National Rebuilding Day, the volunteer program began in Midland, Texas, in the mid-1980s. Prince George's County has followed suit, dubbing its program "Christmas in April," said area coordinator Bo Bruno.
Maryland became the first state in the country to have all its counties participate in the beautification effort, Mr. Bruno said.
Why do the volunteers get up so early in the morning to work on someone else's house?
"Self-fulfillment," said Lavonne Proctor, who has been a house captain, or work crew chief, for three years. "I enjoy helping others."
Money for materials and household fixtures comes from private donations, said Sam Wynkoop, director of the department of environmental resources, who had just cleared a stepping-stone pathway in Ms. Robinson's back yard.
The Rev. James Flowers brought 17 volunteers from the Shining Star Baptist Church in Seat Pleasant to work on the house of Walter Webb, 76, also of Capitol Heights.
Mr. Webb, a retiree who spent 27 years at the Department of Agriculture, couldn't afford to pay professionals to repair the house he's lived in for the past 38 years, in the 1200 block of Dunbar Oaks Drive.
Volunteers painted the entire house, replaced rotted boards on the patio, re-routed gutters that spilled into a neighbor's yard, trimmed trees, and rewired the interior all of which would be too difficult for Mr. Webb, who has a bad back.
"This means a whole lot," said Mr. Webb, whose wife died 15 years ago. "This is one of the greatest things I've ever known. "
Volunteer James Byrd, an estimator with Capitol Heights-based Grade-A Excavating company, spent yesterday working on the Fairmount Heights house of Melvin Mackall on Addison Road.
Mr. Mackall worked for 30 years in naval intelligence before retiring in 1994. He has lived in the house for more than 40 years. His ailing back prevents him from laying carpet, building new kitchen cabinets and building a new driveway, but Grade-A Excavating volunteers were hard at work on those chores.
"I praise the people that are out here and doing this work," said Mr. Mackall, who will be 62 in July. "I wasn't expecting this, but we got lucky. Christmas in April really came through for us."
Mr. Byrd, who served as house co-captain with the president of Grade A Excavating, said the amount of work their crew accomplished gave him a terrific feeling of achievement.
"By the end of the day, I [felt] better than any other day of the year," Mr. Byrd said.

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