The Wills Group and Rebuilding Together Charles County joined forces Wednesday to repair and remodel a pair of homes in the area, assisting local residents who could not make necessary improvements themselves.
Volunteers from both groups arrived at the two locations in La Plata and White Plains, doing yard work and restoration inside and outside of the houses. Lowe’s donated materials for the event, and additional support was provided by employees from Charles County Master Gardeners, Corley Roofing, Green Gravity Cleaning, Nutwell Trash, Potter Heating and Electric and United Site Services.
“We partner with other groups to combine resources so that we can bring houses up to standards to make them comfortable and livable for everybody,” said Rebuilding Together Charles County Vice President Bernie Sewell. “It helps the organizations that [partner] with us to show the community they’re involved and that they care about the community in which they have their businesses, so it’s a win-win for everybody.”
Rebuilding Together Charles County is the new title for the local Christmas in April operation, which aims to serve elderly and disabled homeowners through home repair and rehabilitation. The rebranding will allow the organization to provide year-round services, no longer constrained to a single month of charity work.
The Wills Group owns several companies in Maryland, Virginia and Delaware, including SMO Energy and Dash In. The corporation recently launched its Safe and Healthy Homes Community Initiative, seeking to better homes in the region. Shared missions made the two ideal partners, especially as they try to establish philanthropic roots in Charles County.
Volunteers made major alterations to the La Plata home of Shirley Jennifer, completely replacing the back patio as well as installing an interior heating system. Jennifer has lived in the house for more than 30 years, and its only heat in the winter months came from two kerosene lamps. The workers also removed shrubbery, painted the indoor walls and purchased new furniture for the home. They plan to replace the roof next week.
“Today’s experience has been mind-blowing. It’s a wonderful thing,” said Barbara Dillard, one of Jennifer’s five children.
Dillard visits her mother every day, preparing meals and monitoring her medicine intake. She has financed several repairs on the home, even pouring her retirement fund into its upkeep. Dillard sent in the application to Rebuilding Together and was the primary point of communication between the parties.
“She desperately needed this help,” said Dillard, a Waldorf resident. “I want her to be comfortable with whatever time she has left.”
During a break in the action, Wills Group representatives presented a check for $15,000 to Rebuilding Together Charles County. The grant will fund improvements on both houses and also contribute to future projects for the organization.
“Working with Rebuilding Together has been great because they are in touch with the needs of local homeowners and local community members that need help the most,” said Briana Jatlow, a Wills Group employee and a member of the newly-formed Safe and Healthy Homes committee.
Following the check presentation, Charles County Commissioners’ Vice President Amanda Stewart (D) bestowed an official citation upon the Wills Group thanking them for their contributions to the county.
“The county commissioners honor your commitment and dedicated community service to the communities and the residents of Charles County,” said Stewart, reading from the certificate. Her husband, Alvin Stewart, is the president of Rebuilding Together Charles County.
Both groups hope to work together going forward, likely through additional home improvement projects.
“It’s a nice way to give back to the community we try to serve,” said Michele Wills, volunteer and wife of Wills Group CEO J. Blacklock Wills. “It’s really neat to get to know this family. Every time I go by here it’s going to have this new meaning for me, and hopefully if they see any of us it will be a new meaning for them.”