Hearts & Hammers revitalize five Bronx homes

Captain Al Llamas (center) puts his arms around the volunteers who helped renovate the recreation area of R.A.I.N.’s College Avenue Senior Center on Saturday, June 7. - Photo by Patrick Rocchio

Hearts and Hammers, a program sponsored by R.A.I.N., dedicated a committed group of over 100 volunteers from all walks of life to rehabilitate five Bronx houses and properties occupied by seniors and the disabled in one fell swoop on Saturday, June 7.

One disabled woman on Coddington Avenue, who served on the PTA of P.S. 71 for many years while raising two daughters, got a break when one of the five teams dispatched throughout the borough showed up at her family’s door to do repairs on her home.

Ruth Fowski is confined bed-bound after a stroke; her husband Richard taking care of her when her two visiting nurses are not on duty. The emotional ordeal has taken its toll on the house, and so Councilman Jimmy Vacca recommended the Fowski house for Hearts and Hammers repairs.

“I helped identify the house. Ruth was a volunteer at P.S. 71 for years, and I have known [the Fowskis] for over 25 years. I know the family, and know that heath wise, there are many things preventing them from the up-keep,” Vacca said.  

Vacca visited the work site, and meet with the Fowskis at Ruth’s bedside, promising to help the couple work out some issues with Medicaid and with the owner of a neighboring property at 3305 Bruckner Boulevard, whose garage’s roof contains a stagnant pool of water which is within a few feet of Ruth’s bedroom window.

“The owner of the property at 3305 Bruckner was not hostile at all,” Vacca explained, “he promised to fix the situation.” 

Ruth Fowski had only nice things to say about the program, which installed a new kitchen sink, some pipes, and completely cleaned up the over-grown front yard.

“I had a stroke in 1998, and have been bed-bound for four and half years” Fowski explained. “Hearts and Hammers is a good program. I didn’t know it existed. Richard read about it, I think in the Bronx Times Reporter.  I am thankful for all their help.”

The Hispanic Federation sponsored the Fowski house’s renovations.  The Fowski residence is one of four homes and one senior center around the borough that were part of this year’s fix up.

Others included the R.A.I.N. College Avenue Senior Center in Melrose, and private homes of seniors on Paulding, Amundson, and Givan avenues in Baychester.

House captains, who organize all of the volunteers at each site, for Hearts and Hammers 2008 were Tom Bomgardner, Michael Bonilla, Ron Carson, Al Llamas, and Elba Pena.

“[The type of repairs] depend on what the homeowners want,” explained Hearts and Hammers house captain Tim Bomgardner, who is also on the advisory board for World Vision, a Bronx non-profit that donates building supplies. “We will try to do whatever work is needed. We have a contractor come in and do [more extensive] work before the volunteers arrive. Volunteers usually do yard work and painting.”

Volunteer Edmond Lee said he was excited about being part of the daylong service project.

“We are helping seniors and those on fixed incomes live better,” Lee noted.

Established in 1996, the Hearts and Hammers program has since renovated approximately 104 sites and performed over $282,000 of repairs under the auspices of Regional Aid for Interim Needs, Inc. 

To volunteer, donate, be considered for next year’s program or for more information, please call Sandra at (718) 892-5520.

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