National Guard members assist elderly couple on ‘Rebuilding Day’

When you’re in your mid-80s, climbing atop the roof of your home to repair a leak can be dangerous, if not impossible. So can simple tasks like cutting the grass or painting.

So when Mr. and Mrs. Leo Thomas here in southern Maryland found they could no longer maintain a place they had called home for more than 50 years, they asked for help, hoping someone would care.

In one day, National Guard volunteers repaired their home and called it “Christmas in April.”

“It’s wonderful what these folks have done for us today. I want to take them for coming out here and doing this,” said Leo Thomas. “We really appreciate it.”

Saturday, around 40 Soldiers, Airmen and civilians from the National Capital Region repaired the Thomas’ roof, and sanded, scraped and painted the exterior. They installed new windows and landscaped the yard. Others widened a doorway to make the home more accessible for Mrs. Thomas’ wheelchair.

“There are a lot of things that you and I take for granted that they are not able to do for themselves,” said Ray Detig, a retired federal worker now employed as a contractor with the Air National Guard.

It was the 15th year that National Guard members supported the event.

It is known as National Rebuilding Day, where volunteers through the nonprofit Rebuilding Together organize on the last Saturday in April to rehabilitate homes all over the country for low-income residents, at no cost. Many are elderly, disabled veterans or needy families.

The Thomas couple raised a family in their one-floor ranch at the end of a private, dirt road.

Detig said the repairs will help them stay there a little longer. “They have lived here longer than most of us have been alive.”

Later that day the volunteers attended a picnic at the Charles County Fairgrounds, where nearly 1,000 other volunteers met following numerous other rebuilding projects that helped homeowners across the county.

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