Daily Planet Staff
By the end of this month, 40 homes and 15 community centers and schools in Berkeley, Albany, Emeryville and North Oakland will be repaired and renovated thanks to more than 2,000 volunteers participating in the Christmas in April program.
“I give my thanks to Christmas in April. They’re lifesavers, because without them, we wouldn’t be able to do this,” said Betty Alcutt during a Saturday morning work session-turned-press conference at her mother’s house on Mathews Street. Volunteers will be installing a wheelchair lift outside Georgia and Lenzy Taylor’s home and will remodel a bathroom to make it wheelchair accessible.
Organizers estimate that this year’s volunteers in the four communities will be doing more than $500,000 in repair work. Nationally, around 237,000 volunteers will provide an estimated $78 million in repairs this year in 720 communities.
Since 1991, volunteers with the Albany-Berkeley-Emeryville branch of Christmas in April have rehabilitated 256 homes and 54 community facilities, including schools and community centers. Most of the homes belonged to low-income seniors or disabled residents.
“There are lots of people who put lots of time and lots of energy into this, and it’s really worthwhile,” said Berkeley Police Chief Dash Butler, who serves on the board of the local group.
Butler recalled that despite some kinks in the process the first time around, in 1991 – he joked that it was “Christmas in April and May” – he found the experience rewarding, and a team from the police department has volunteered every year since.
On Saturday, with reporters and cameramen wandering around the Taylors’ property, volunteers from Community Impact participated in the first workday of the Christmas in April season. The primary workday will be April 29, but volunteers are working at several sites around the area on every Saturday this month.
That means by this time in May, Georgia Taylor will be able to leave her home in her wheelchair, something that has been a Herculean task since a stroke in May 1999 left her confined to that wheelchair. Her husband, Lenzy, took part in Saturday’s press conference, offering a brief but heartfelt remark.
“I thank all of you all, and I appreciate it very much,” he said.
Executive Director Christa Hill noted that organizers are still accepting donations of materials for the workdays, including lumber, carpet, range hoods, a floor furnace, ovens, washers, dryers, refrigerators, linoleum and paint (a paint donation should consist of a 20-gallon minimum of one color, such as off-white, white and cream). Volunteers are also still needed, especially carpenters, electricians, plumbers, tilers, roofers and carpet installers.
For more information on making a donation or becoming a volunteer, call 510-644-8979.