Midstate group fixes up 15 homes in a day, free of charge

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Saturday, the last in April, marked a major annual build day for a Midstate group dedicated to improving lives.

Fifteen houses got makeovers free of charge. It’s out with the outdated, in with the reno.

“The other ones were old,” volunteer builder John Greenwood said, removing cabinets from a Harrisburg home. “The drawers didn’t work.”

“Only two worked in this whole house, in this kitchen,” homeowner Martha Johnson added. “Two.”

“We’ve replaced the kitchen cabinets,” said Barbara Whitehead, the house captain leading the project for Rebuilding Together Greater Harrisburg, starting her list. “Replacing the boards on the deck.”

“She could really easily fall through this right out the door, and that’s where it’s the worst,” volunteer builder Brett Kern said, pulling up the rotted deck.

“Painting these,” Whitehead continued down the list, motioning to the wood-finish cabinets. “Hand-held shower, shower seat, new flooring.”

It went on. “We like long lists,” Whitehead laughed. “Oh, and handrails going down these steps.”

“Make life a little easier for this lady,” George Dilks said as he put a new floor in Johnson’s bathroom.

It’s a list that’s only grown.

“I couldn’t have done it,” Johnson said. “Because you try to figure out what you’re going to fix first and what can you let go.”

A list that seemed too much after multiple back surgeries, a loss of vision in one eye. After her husband died four years ago.

“I’m sitting here saying, ‘I’m not used to doing this. I’m used to having somebody else helping me,'” she said.

A honey-do list left undone. Until now.

“There’s people out there that care,” Kimette Johnson, Martha’s daughter, said. “Everyone’s not all selfish.”

Rebuilding Together has been proving that in the Midstate for 20 years, with contractors, plumbers, and other builders doing free work to keep people (especially low-income families and the elderly or disabled) safe, warm, and independent.

Over their history, the local chapter has donated about $2 million worth of work.

“I know she didn’t want to leave this home,” Kimette Johnson said.

“And I’ve got a free Saturday, so let’s do it,” Kern said. “It’s just about helping people, right? That’s what we used to do.”

“I’ve been blessed with the ability to do this kind of work, and I’d like to share it with other people that need it,” Greenwood said. “And what better way to show your fellow man that you care about them?

“All I can [do is] sit back and say thank you,” Johnson said. “From the bottom of my heart, that’s all I can say is thank you. Thank you them and thank you, God.”

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