Last year, Cris Sanguin (right) led a team of Central Whidbey Hearts & Hammers volunteers to provide loving lawn care for Florence Harves, who was thrilled with the results. Photo provided

Last year, Cris Sanguin (right) led a team of Central Whidbey Hearts & Hammers volunteers to provide loving lawn care for Florence Harves, who was thrilled with the results. Photo provided

Living the motto ‘neighbors helping neighbors’

Volunteers can still sign up for Hearts & Hammers

Last year, Cris Sanguin took the motto of Hearts & Hammers literally.

She and her team of volunteers spent the day helping out their own Greenbank neighbor, Florence Harves, a homeowner in her 90s who had applied to the organization for assistance on various maintenance needs.

Weeds smothered her garden. Moss overtook her roof and a big burn pile needed attending on her property.

In her fourth year as a volunteer for Central Whidbey Hearts & Hammers, Sanguin was assigned to be team leader of Harves’ projects.

“It was the first year I was asked to be a team captain,” she said. “My neighbors had previously said they’d help. So word got out and, amazingly, I got a ton of volunteers.”

Hearts & Hammers is a non-profit all-volunteer organization that helps homeowners who are physically or financially unable to maintain their own homes. A free one-day work blitz tackles all kinds of projects, ranging from roof repairs to yard work to building wheelchair ramps.

Priority is given to health and safety concerns, such as installing railings on stairs or grab bars in the bathroom.

Checking on smoke detectors is also a service of Hearts & Hammers through the American Red Cross program, Sound the Alarm.

A free smoke detector, free installation and a review of fire exit strategy is provided by a three-person team.

Grants and donations from foundations, service organizations, churches, and fundraising efforts cover the cost of the one-day effort. Local businesses also donate materials and labor while local volunteers fulfill the “neighbors helping neighbors” motto.

“Florence had been a garden club member,” Sanguin said. “There was quite a bit of overgrown weeds. It gave us a sense of pride at the end of the day, and it really gave her a huge sense of pride to have the lawn mowed and weeds picked.”

Sanguin said she and others continue to assist Harves with home chores, which lives up to the organization’s second goal of “building community.”

Hearts & Hammers started as a pilot project in 1994 under the sponsorship of the Langley United Methodist Church. It became an independent non-profit program and spread to other parts of the island and to other states.

South Whidbey’s group has repaired more than 500 homes. Last year, some 320 volunteers completed projects on 34 homes.

On average, about 18 homeowners are helped annually in Central Whidbey with between 110-120 volunteers. It started in 2009.

By next year, there could be a third group, said Jim Short, known as the “WorkDay General” for Central Whidbey’s project day, which is always the first Saturday in May.

“We get lots of calls from Oak Harbor. There’s lot of needs there,” Short said, “and there’s lot of people who’d like to volunteer. We’re making progress toward a north-end group.”

Homeowners living in the Coupeville School District are served by the Central Whidbey Hearts & Hammers.

Applications are being taken until Feb. 15 to be considered. After a brief phone interview, a volunteer from Hearts & Hammers then goes to the property requesting aid to view needed repairs.

The organization’s board of directors then goes through the applications.

“We’ll assess what they need to have done and what we can do in one day,” Short said.

Last year, some projects had to be pared down, Short said, because he didn’t have enough team captains.

“We always need more volunteers,” he said. “The more the better, always.”

Keeping homeowners safe is a major concern for Hearts & Hammers volunteers, including repairing stair railings. A crew last year replaced a deck railing. Photo provided

Keeping homeowners safe is a major concern for Hearts & Hammers volunteers, including repairing stair railings. A crew last year replaced a deck railing. Photo provided

Making sure home owners have working smoke detectors is another part of Hearts & Hammers. Through the American Red Cross, volunteers install the free smoke detectors and discuss fire exit strategy with residents. Photo provided

Making sure home owners have working smoke detectors is another part of Hearts & Hammers. Through the American Red Cross, volunteers install the free smoke detectors and discuss fire exit strategy with residents. Photo provided

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