South Whidbey Hearts & Hammers needs a helping hand

Hearts & Hammers volunteers  —  a few shown here during a recent workday — fan out across the South End to perform free home repairs each May, from fixing decks to chopping wood. - Photos courtesy of Hearts & Hammers
Hearts & Hammers volunteers — a few shown here during a recent workday — fan out across the South End to perform free home repairs each May, from fixing decks to chopping wood.
— image credit: Photos courtesy of Hearts & Hammers

Hearts & Hammers needs more volunteers for its annual workday in May, at least according to its computers.

And it can use more firewood, too.

Volunteer signups are running about 100 behind last year’s total at this juncture, organizers say. About 180 have officially signed up so far.

“It’s the classic excuse — the dog ate my homework,” Kevin Lungren, a Hearts

& Hammers board member, said Monday. “The Web ate our volunteers.”

Because of a change in service providers, the completed applications of about

100 people agreeing to participate in the workday disappeared into the ether before their offers could be confirmed, Lungren said.

“We know that probably everything will turn out fine,” he said. “A lot of people in the community just show up and say, ‘You knew we were coming.’”

While remaining optimistic that enough volunteers will appear when it counts, Lungren said it’s important to register ahead of time, preferably online, so that teams can be assembled.

“We’d like to show that we’re a little organized,” he said.

As for the shortage of firewood this year, the Woodchucks contingent of Hearts

& Hammers is looking for more donations.

Lungren said that because of the slowdown in building activity on the island, fewer trees are being cleared, so contributions are well below previous years.

Donated logs and firewood are collected at Trinity Lutheran Church in Freeland, where the Woodchucks cut it and deliver it to residents in need who heat their houses with wood.

Last year, 33 loads of firewood were delivered, Lungren said. He said anyone wanting to contribute wood can drop it off on the east side of the church.

The Woodchucks also need volunteers with trucks, splitters and chainsaws, he added.

From its grassroots beginning in 1994, Hearts & Hammers has grown to include more than 400 volunteers who one day per year fan out across the South End to repair and spruce up homes whose owners can’t afford or are physically unable to do the work themselves.

Volunteers do whatever repairs and renovations are possible within a one-day work blitz, from building wheelchair ramps, repairing roofs, kitchens and bathrooms; electrical and plumbing; weatherization; heavy cleaning; yard work; and trash removal.

There’s no charge to the homeowners, who are selected by Hearts & Hammers in advance. Costs are covered by grants and donations from service organizations, churches and individuals, by fundraising events and in-kind donations of labor and materials from South Whidbey businesses.

This year’s workday is Saturday, May 1, and 36 South End homes are on the list for “the whole gamut,” Lungren said.

Volunteers can be as young as 12, and often include people in their 80s. Those age 12 through 15 can work alongside their parents. Those age 16 and 17 can work independently with a medical release and permission form from their parents.

Volunteers with a variety of skills are still needed, from plumbing, carpentry and electrical knowledge to yard skills and painting.

Also needed are people to deliver trash and recycling to transfer stations, and for the kitchen crew that will be feeding the volunteers, Lungren said.

“We’ve never turned away a volunteer,” Lungren said. “Everyone has some skill we can use.”

The workday is jam-packed.

Volunteers gather at 7:45 a.m., rain or shine, at South Whidbey High School for a light breakfast and to join their teams and captains.

Hearts & Hammers hats, T-shirts and sweatshirts will be available for purchase, and a photo will be taken of the entire group before everyone heads out.

When the workday is complete, everyone is invited back to the high school for a dinner prepared by chef Craig Breeden of Ivar’s Restaurants. There also will be music, and free massages offered by members of the Massage Therapist Guild.

The dinner menu will include applewood-smoked salmon penne pasta, mixed-green salad, spring vegetables, locally baked bread and pound cake Tiramisu with espresso chocolate sauce.

Hearts & Hammers includes 16 board members, designated house captains and residents who have been helped by the organization. It serves residents south of Classic Road.

The new Coupeville chapter of Hearts & Hammers, serving Central Whidbey north of Classic Road, will have its second workday on the same day.

“It’s a lot like a family or holiday gathering,” Lungren said of the annual event.

“We’ll take anybody with a willingness to work.”

Volunteers must bring gloves, safety equipment, rakes, shovels and any other tools requested by their house captains, along with a lunch.

To volunteer, sign up online at www.heartsand, or call 221-6063.

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