A beloved Whidbey tradition of volunteerism is making a comeback for the first time since the pandemic began.
South Whidbey Hearts & Hammers is looking to build up a base of volunteers for its upcoming work day on May 7.
The community-focused organization that repairs the homes of those who are physically or financially unable to themselves last held a work day three years ago, in 2019.
Central and North Whidbey branches of the nonprofit program held smaller work days in September 2021. They, too, are in search of volunteers for upcoming work days on May 7 and May 14, respectively.
As an extra COVID precaution, South Whidbey Hearts & Hammers canceled its spaghetti fundraiser dinner, which is usually held in February.
Dyanne Sheldon, the vice president for the South Whidbey effort, said repairs made during this year’s work day will predominantly take place outside. Volunteers will work in small groups of family members or friends.
“Normally we purposely mix up the volunteers so people get to meet other people and expand community, but given what’s still happening with the pandemic, our first priority is for people to be safe,” Sheldon said. “We’re allowing people to sign up as family groups, groups with friends, whoever they feel comfortable with.”
During a “typical” year, South Whidbey Hearts and Hammers can tackle up to 35 projects with 300 volunteers. Those numbers may be less this year.
Sheldon said homeowners who applied for work requests in 2020 will be prioritized. The organization is moving through the list to make sure applicants are still eligible, and may take more requests if space allows. In some cases, for example, people have moved out of their homes within the last two years.
New work requests can be submitted at heartsandhammers.com. Potential volunteers can also indicate their interest on the website.
Outdoor projects include repairs to decks, porches and patios.
“It’s a common request that we have homeowners who have aged to the point where now they need a ramp,” Sheldon said.
Some indoor repairs, such as installing grab bars in bathrooms or fixing minor plumbing issues, may be considered if homeowners are amenable to inviting volunteers inside.
“With the pandemic, people are still understandably cautious,” Sheldon said.
Other outdoor projects might extend to landscaping or hauling away debris.
“We may have a few other fun tricks up our sleeves,” Sheldon said.
Central Whidbey is holding its work day the same day as South Whidbey, on May 7.
President Kelly Keilwitz said Central Whidbey Hearts & Hammers is always open for more volunteers and more work requests. A limited number of volunteers will perform repairs inside homes during this year’s work day. More information can be found at cwheartsandhammers.org.
During the pandemic, the branch has focused on expanding its Home Emergency Action Response Team, or HEART, program. This year-round program is for homeowners who can’t wait until the next work day for repairs to be made to their homes.
Keilwitz serves as a house captain, meaning he is a team leader for the repair projects. As recently as Wednesday, he helped build a wheelchair ramp for an elderly couple who were relieved to easily be able to access their home.
“When you see that appreciation from people, it really warms your heart and makes it worthwhile,” Keilwitz said. “In this time that we have now of people drawing into themselves and people are getting a little testy, it’s a way to spread love and to spread joy.”
North Whidbey’s work day is scheduled for May 14.
President Reid Schwartz said work requests can be submitted at nwheartsandhammers.org. The goal is to work on 12 to 15 houses, meaning about 150 volunteers are needed. A fundraising event may take place in April.
North Whidbey Hearts & Hammers is the newest branch of Hearts & Hammers on the island.