Spread across a total of 28 work sites, just over 300 volunteers turned out on Saturday for South Whidbey’s biggest event of the year helping neighbors in need.
Since 1994, the nonprofit organization Hearts and Hammers has helped fix up the homes of those in the community who are financially or physically unable to do the maintenance themselves. The organization was founded by the late Lynn Willeford.
“We have wonderful people here and we’re lucky to live here,” said Bruce Schwager, a longtime volunteer. “In a small way, it’s a way to give back and contribute to our larger community.”
This year, Schwager served as a team captain alongside his son-in-law, Isaac Leitz. With about a dozen people on their team, they installed a drainage ditch, repaired a deck, hauled away trash, trimmed and pruned plants, repaired a portion of the roof and replaced gutters damaged by a windstorm, cleared weeds and prepared a mulch pile at a Freeland home.
Schwager was happy the rain held off during what looked to be an overcast day. In total, he spent nearly 10 hours at the job site, showing up long before anyone else and staying longer too.
“It was a remarkable achievement and I was so happy with the enthusiasm of our team,” he said.
The homeowner, Ian Joseph Jackson, was thrilled to have the help.
“Defying almost all logic, they were able to get this thing implemented within the allotted timeframe,” Jackson said. “It was like a miracle.”
Before the repairs were made, he said, the house’s condition significantly impacted his quality of life, and had him considering leaving the island for good.
Now, with the impediments cleared away, the home is feeling habitable again.
“It’s just a tremendous blessing,” he said.
Jackson added that he was definitely inspired to participate in Hearts and Hammers next season as a volunteer.