Hearts, Hammers ready to nail some volunteers

R.A.I.N. board members (l-r) Mike Bonilla, Ron Carson, R.A.I.N. founder Beatrice Castiglia-Catullo, R.A.I.N. chairman Nelson Gomez, and R.A.I.N. executive director Louis Vazquez celebrated the annual kick off breakfast for the 2009 Hearts & Hammers campaign recently. Photo by Victor Chu

Members of the Regional Aid For Interim Needs’s 2009 Hearts & Hammers Program gathered together on Wednesday, March 25. The “kick off breakfast” took place at R.A.I.N.’s Elias Karmon Senior Center at 2424 Boston Road.

Hearts & Hammers repairs houses of home-owning, low-income seniors who often are disabled or living solely on social security. The program, which began in 1996, uses volunteers to help repair community centers, houses of worship and some apartments. Hearts & Hammers has already helped over 100 homeowners.

This year the large group of volunteers is expected to install new electrical outlets, light fixtures, paint, garden, and remove rubbish on Saturday, June 6. This effort will follow the work of tradesmen who will make larger scale improvements such as roof repair, electrical rewiring, and plumbing work.

“The number of sponsors that have committed sums of money and volunteers will determine the number of houses we will repair,” said Louis Vazquez, executive director of R.A.I.N. “If we use last year as a guide, we can hope to repair eight houses this year. We are excited to have new corporate sponsors: Ridgewood Savings Bank, Hudson Valley Bank, and Sanofi-adventis pharmaceutical company.”

A large array of sponsors are needed because the 200 or so volunteers need thousands of dollars for each project. Hearts & Hammers’ two volunteer skilled tradesman need even larger sums for more major repairs.

“All of the skilled trades are involved in Hearts & Hammers,” said Joe Vega, an electrician who has been with Hearts & Hammers since its beginning. “A lot of the houses are in bad condition – so we get plumbers, carpenters, electricians, and roofers into the house before the event day.”

James Abreu, who worked on last year’s Hearts & Hammers, found the volunteer work rewarding. He will be back this year.

“I never thought I had the money or the time to volunteer,” Abreu said. “However, when you see the difference you can make in people’s lives with one simple repair, it is really incredible.”

For more information on Hearts & Hammers, call R.A.I.N. at (718) 892 – 5520.

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