2015 Community Service Award Winners
Ashton Manor Environmental
On January 11, 2016, two (2) Community Service Awards were presented. The first award presented was the Community Builder Award, presented in recognition of a builder member who helps raise awareness of the industry's spirit of giving. Prince George’s County Councilman Todd M. Turner did the honors.
This year’s winner served as our Builder Captain on a renovation project for Alpha House, a four-bedroom single family home owned by the St. Matthews’s Housing Corporation in Bowie Maryland. St. Matthew’s Housing was established in 1990 under the sponsorship of St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church and is supported by community organizations in the area.
At Alpha House, St. Matthews operates a transitional housing program for families, many who are in need of support after a crisis has left them homeless. Program participants are selected in consultation with local shelters and agencies. For each participating family, individual action plans are developed, depending on their needs, capabilities and aspirations. The goal of each plan is to help the participant achieve economic independence and return to stability. Progress is monitored through regular counseling and the average stay at Alpha House is 18-24 months. Literally hundreds of family members have received supported housing and assistance while in residence at Alpha House over 25 years.
The Community Builder Award Winner, Caruso Homes, was recognized for their leadership and expertise on this project. From the moment they first learned about it, the Caruso team, with Dan Roys, their Director of Construction serving as project manager, has been nothing but helpful and responsive in working with St. Matthews and Home Builders Care.
HBCF is especially thankful for their technical assistance in helping fine tune and prioritize the scope of work, which started as a lengthy wish list of to-do items on the 53 year old building. With years of wear, the building needed numerous repairs and replacements in order for St. Matthews to effectively and economically continue to operate the program. Needless to say, maintaining properties that serve as homes for families in crisis can be challenging and costly.
Originally constructed in 1963, Alpha House still has many of its original elements, including its very old and inefficient oil-fired boiler. But instead of simply replacing it, a new two-zone electric heat pump system was recommended after Dan Roys examined the property and then heard how sometimes more than one family can be housed at a time. Additionally, after an energy audit noted that the home’s monthly winter electric bill was around $400 in the winter - on top of $300 per month in heating oil costs - it was also recommended that windows be replaced and R-30 insulation blown-in. Other items included a new front sidewalk and flooring replaced throughout the entire home.
The total project value was $30,000, of which 90% was covered by Home Builders Care and Caruso Homes. With St. Matthews’s limited budget, with most funds directed to program services, the project would not have been completed without this key building industry help. Thanks to the support of Caruso Homes, we have helped a few homeless families have a warmer, safer place to sleep tonight in Prince George’s County.
This next award presented was the Tom Sawyer Award, in recognition of significant contributions to one of Home Builders Care’s shelter-related projects. Marilyn Kresky-Wolff, the Executive Director of Open Arms Housing did the honors.
This year’s winner excelled as a model trade partner and helpful contributor to a project at Owen House, a small multi-unit property owned and operated by Open Arms in Washington DC. Owen House was once a run-down 4-unit low-rise apartment building on a narrow street in northeast DC. Today, it is now the new home to four women who have once been homeless.
Founded in 1997, Open Arms embraces a Housing First approach in their mission to provide permanent housing with a welcoming and supportive environment to women who are homeless with a variety of mental health issues. They believe that housing is therapy, and that stable, safe housing is necessary to promote the physical, mental and emotional well-being of all persons, particularly women suffering from chronic mental illness.
Owen House is their second project and Home Builders Care has lent its expertise to both. Funding for the acquisition and renovation of the project came from over 15 sources, most notably the DC Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) in the form of a permanent loan, and a grant jointly funded by DHCD and the DC Department of Behavorial Health. Additional key funding comes from local foundations and the DC Housing Authority’s Local Rent Supplement Program.
As with most projects of this kind, there are always funding gaps, especially when new, unexpected issues arise. On this project, after a last minute scramble to obtain the certificate of occupancy (shout out to Hercules Fence for coming to the rescue) and finally have the women move in, there was still the problem of deciding what to do about lack of any landscaping. The back yard was dreadful and the front yard had been worn down by months of construction.
But up walked Jeff Schwartz and his Ashton Manor Environmental crew to learn more about our program and decide what elements would work best on the property with minimal maintenance needs. He learned that the resident using the back yard the most was wheelchair-bound and that a new back staircase may have to be built to provide two other residents improved direct access from the 2nd floor.
When the landscape installation plan was finalized in December, Open Arms did not expect work to be completed until 2016. So they were elated when we discovered that the Ashton Manor was able to schedule one of their crews for us during one of the warm weeks right before the holidays in December.
The women, and some of the neighbors, were excited to see the trucks roll up and workers begin installing a beautiful and functional 300 sq. ft. paver patio with surface drains. A planting area and garden was added along with over a dozen shrubs and a crape myrtle tree to help provide privacy screening. River gravel was also included to beautify the space.
Their work has made quite a difference, especially when you look at the side-by-side before and after photographs of the backyard. It’s an amazing transformation. The residents are very much looking forward to working in the garden and enjoying the backyard with a bit of privacy from the plantings.
The total project value of the outdoor work was $15,000, of which 100% was covered by Home Builders Care and Ashton Manor Environmental. Frankly, without the support of Home Builders Care and Ashton Manor stepping up to help at a deep discount, the landscaping may have never been completed and certainly not in a timely and worry–free manner. Thanks to the Ashton Manor and its key building industry help, four formerly homeless women have a new home and a beautiful backyard they can be proud of.