A new North Whidbey chapter of the home-repair brigade, Hearts & Hammers, is planning its first Work Day on Saturday, May 11.
“We’re definitely seeing a void and definitely seeing the need for this,” said Anita Johnston, a broker with Windermere Real Estate.
Johnston, who’s been helping form a North Whidbey Hearts & Hammers board, said the nonprofit plans to keep its debut community outreach effort small and simple, with up to six house projects.
This will be the third chapter of Hearts & Hammers, one of Whidbey Island’s most successful volunteer groups. It matches homeowners in need with woodworkers, plumbers, electricians, yard workers and other volunteers.
Most are elderly or disabled and unable to afford the cost of home repairs; some are in danger of losing their homes if they can’t maintain them.
Teams tackle a huge to-do list of repairs at numerous houses during one long, well-organized day.
Supplies are donated and bought at discount from local construction supply stores with money from fundraising events. Volunteers usually bring their own tools and some even lend their own trucks to make dump runs.
The county waives fees for dump loads collected by Hearts & Hammers teams.
Lynn Willeford and Richard Merrill organized the first Heart & Hammers work force some 25 years ago on South Whidbey with the simple concept of “neighbors helping neighbors.”
Fifteen years later, a Coupeville chapter started.
Many residents, including high school students, have already stepped up to help the new north end effort, Johnston said.
“The beauty of Oak Harbor and our island is we have so many retirees that have great planning skills and expertise in so many fields,” Johnston said. “People from local businesses, unions, Boeing and several retired contractors are joining the effort.”
Hearts & Hammers groups spend months visiting with residents assessing safety, maintenance and repair requests.
The work day has traditionally been the first Saturday in May.
North Whidbey is choosing the second Saturday in May so as not to stress the county dumps where countless heaps of discarded items end up after being sorted.
Since the Oak Harbor chapter hasn’t had time to raise funds for repair materials, it will aim for simple “sweat equity” tasks such as cleaning gutters, cutting tree branches and taking accumulated junk to the county dump.
In South Whidbey’s first effort in 1994, six houses were on the repair list with four more added at the last minute. About 20 people volunteered.
Last year, more than 400 volunteers were dispatched in teams to 34 houses around South Whidbey. Jobs ranged in scope from yard work, bathroom improvements, gutter and roof cleaning, deck rails, plumbing and electrical repairs, debris hauling and building wheelchair ramps.
“We’ve helped well over 700 homeowners over the 25 years, ” said Baz Stevens, president of the board overseeing South Whidbey Hearts & Hammers.