Friday Focus: Christmas in April St. Mary’s County®

Christmas in April St. Mary's CountyChristmas in April St. Mary’s County, Inc rehabilitates the houses of low-income homeowners, particularly the elderly and disabled, so that they may live in warmth, safety, and independence. We caught up with Howard Thompson, the President of Christmas in April St. Mary’s County. Inc for this week’s Friday Focus, where he shared his organization’s story.

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)
A: Christmas in April St. Mary’s County, Inc. was started in the summer of 1990. This program focuses on a one-day “blitz” of home repairs on the last Saturday in April. However, we are a year-round program. Distribution throughout the county of free Applications for Assistance occurs during half of the year. Communicating our needs to welcome help from skilled trade’s people and community leaders to serve as area coordinators and house captains is on-going. Many of the home repairs focus on the goal of restoring the home to be safe, dry and warm.

I have had the privilege to be involved with Christmas in April serving in many capacities throughout the years. Having the opportunity to help people in our community in such an impactful way each year is a rewarding experience. In the past 23 years, Christmas in April St. Mary’s County Inc. volunteers have repaired over 652 homes; 14 community nonprofit facilities have received help with repairs; 37,100 people have shared their time and talents; and have made free home repairs worth more than $5.6 million to improve the living conditions of the low-income, elderly, and disabled homeowners in St. Mary’s County.

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?
A: One of my most memorable experiences was during my time as a house captain while repairing a lady’s porch. She was elderly and was unable to get outside due to the unsafe condition of her porch. At the time, her son was active duty military serving in the Iraq War, but promised upon his return he would perform the necessary repairs which would allow her to be able go outside again. Her son never returned because he was killed serving in the war. On Christmas in April day, after the repairs were complete, she grabbed her walker and humbly went out to the volunteers to thank them personally and tell them how happy her son would be that someone was looking out for his mom.”

There are so many needy people in our community. On another occasion, during a house inspection to assess the necessary repairs, I watched an animal enter through a large hole in the wall in the kitchen. This animal walked over the kitchen table and grabbed the food right off the table and proceeded to carry the food back to hole leading outside. This was obviously not the first visit from the animal. The home owner was so upset that she could hardly afford food and yet the animals were coming in and stealing her food.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?
A: These are just two examples of families that we have been able to help, however the stories are more common than we would like to believe in Southern Maryland. There are many more people we have not yet had the opportunity to help. The work we do is made possible only through the donations received and the volunteer hours given throughout the year. It seems as though, like many organizations, that the biggest challenge is to secure donations.

Q: How can people get involved this holiday season? Are there any upcoming events?
A: The holiday season is a great time of the year for giving. There is still an opportunity to make that tax deductable end of the year contribution and support the Christmas in April at the same time. You will know that your money is going to help someone in your community.

Christmas in April St. Mary’s County, Inc. is having their Second Annual Lottery Raffle. The raffle is for the month of May. Ticket holders have a chance to win each day on one ticket. The winning number is the MD lottery evening pick three number drawn that night. Each day except the 15th is worth $100. The 15th of May is worth $2,500. We are only selling 1,000 tickets for this raffle. The tickets are $20 to benefit Christmas in April St. Mary’s County, Inc.

If you would like more information about Christmas in April and how you can make a contribution or volunteer, visit our website at christmasinaprilsmc.org or you can call 301-884-2905.

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