One of the most active days on the South End isn’t a festival or conference — it’s a day of volunteering.
More than 400 people gathered on Saturday, May 3, for the annual South Whidbey Hearts & Hammers work day. Held on the first Saturday of May each year, the non-profit organization aims to repair and rehabilitate homes of residents who are unable to do the work on their own. In a phrase: It’s neighbors helping neighbors.
This year, 37 homes were chosen to receive labor and repairs at no cost. The volunteers are divided into teams that work on projects ranging from general carpentry and cleanup to roof installation.
For homeowners Warren and Claudine Evertt, this was just the kind of help they needed. Warren, 82, and Claudine, 92, have lived in their mobile home in Langley for about 40 years. They sought help from the organization for repairs, yard cleaning and stabilizing a pole barn on their property.
It was a light job for the four-member team, but imperative for the Evertts who had a tough time even asking for assistance.
“It goes against every grain I feel,” Warren Evertt said.
Both have worked at Good Cheer in the past, but those volunteer days are done for the couple, he said.
“If I could be out there, I would,” he said, expressing his wish to fix the repairs himself.
Warren Evertt said he has a tough time with others helping him, but doesn’t have the money to hire someone for repairs.
“It hurts because I can’t do it myself,” he said.
This is the second year Hearts & Hammers has aided the Evertt’s. Last year the organization helped install a new porch roof.
“They’re the greatest people doing this — especially for folks like us,” Warren Evertt said.
Team captain of the Evertt home, Stephen Friedlob, who is also an organization board member, helped direct volunteers in cleaning, yard work and doing repairs. This is the fourth year he’s participated in the work day.
“It feels good to do it for free and help people,” Friedlob said.
For Kate Noble, volunteering for the event is a powerful community experience. This is her fifth year volunteering for the group, and one of the more straightforward jobs, she said. Previously, she learned how to install a new roof through volunteering.
“I got a great tan on the roof,” Noble joked, adding it was wonderful learning a new skill.
“At the end I became good at pounding the nails,” she said.
DB Brad Hankins, who was also on the team, said he enjoyed helping people who need assistance.
“I love the fact that it’s local and not about money,” he said. “It’s about neighbors helping neighbors. … It epitomizes community.”
Hearts & Hammers Board member Richard Epstein was pleased with the busy work day and hopes the repairs keep people in their homes.
Epstein said the one of the challenges is addressing the many health risks associated with the repairs, such as mold contamination.
“We’re hoping to grow to address the growing health risks with older mobile homes,” he said.
Epstein added that the nonprofit works on projects throughout the year that need more than a day’s repairs. With the growing number of roof repairs needed, the group also plans on creating a new nonprofit to solely focus on roof repairs.
The event also included sites for chopping wood for fire. More than 30 loads of firewood were donated to Hearts & Hammers homes and other people in need.
Jack Kniseley oversaw a wood splitter with his grandchildren Ryanne Kniseley and Ben Tilken along with Joseph Neil at the site.
This is Ryanne’s fifth year volunteering — that’s every year since she turned 12, the minimum age to begin volunteering with the group. She said she enjoys everything about volunteering and helping others during the workday.
“The thought of helping people in need makes it worth it,” she said.