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Volunteers Bring Christmas Joy in April

Gale Horton Gay | 5/2/2012, 10:09 a.m.

Geraldine Hawkins experienced a home invasion of the very best kind.

Hordes of volunteers descended on Hawkins' Capitol Heights home last Saturday with one goal in mind: to repair, paint, plant, clean, de-clutter and organize areas of her home of 30 years.

"God is good," said Hawkins as she sat in her living room chatting with two volunteers who were busy folding sheets and organizing her linen closet. "It's fantastic. I don't even have the words."

Hawkins was counted among one of 86 elderly and disabled homeowners in Prince George's County chosen to be a part of the county's 24th Annual Christmas in April program.

Since 1989, Prince George's County Christmas in April has repaired and renovated more than 2,000 homes and donated more than $35 million in supplies and service for repairs.

"We are excited to be assisting the 86 homeowners we have chosen this year," said Prince George's County Christmas in April Executive Director Mary Kuchaski. "With the county's continued support, and the many county organizations that help us, we look forward to celebrating our 25th anniversary next year."

Hawkins, 93, appeared overwhelmed by the magnitude of the volunteer effort. One of her neighbors who lives a few houses down the street - Queen Covington - was also a Christmas in April recipient. Workers repaired her roof, while others were in her yard and inside the home engaged in a number of fix-up and straighten-up projects.

"I've never seen so many people that were willing to give their time without pay. I thank God," Hawkins said.

Early on Saturday morning Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III and his wife Christa Beverly Baker stopped by to lend a helping hand planting flowers. Many staff members of Baker's office also signed up to do volunteer work at the home.

Hawkins said she told Baker that if the flowers died she was going to "come and find you."

Peggy Morris and Lori Valentine folded sheets and chatted with Hawkins while volunteer Christopher Plummer, a contractor by trade, removed flooring in one of the bathrooms.

Plummer of Washington, D.C., said his father has been volunteering with the program for years and he decided to pitch in this year.

"It's good," said Plummer. "You've got to give. It [isn't] all about receiving. I wish I could do it two or three times a year."

Valentine said she believes in letting "her light shine. I would want somebody to do this for my mother ... I would want someone to do this for me."

Outside, Maryland District 25 Delegate Dereck Davis said he was "just trying to do my civic duty" as he took a break from assisting with landscaping.

Terry Lawlah and three members of the Tipsy Rose Garden Club also helped spruce up the yard.

"Volunteering is underrated in terms of what it does for the soul," said Lawlah as she sprayed weeds in the walkway leading to Hawkins' home.

Baker was scheduled to also visit Christmas in April homes in Seat Pleasant with the First Baptist Church of Glenarden and in Landover Hills with the Prince George's County Fire Department.

"Hundreds of Prince George's County employees are once again volunteering to help Christmas in April repair and renovate the homes of some of our neediest residents and neighbors," Baker said.