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Church Spruces, Repairs Clifton Woman's Home

Saturday was gray and rainy, but spirits were bright and sunny as nearly 90 people from Floris United Methodist Church made much-needed repairs to the home of an 82-year-old Clifton woman.

They did so under the auspices of the Christmas in April program — now called Rebuilding Together with Christmas in April. And the recipient was widow Vergie Barbour who lives on Chapel Road in a cinderblock house built in 1966.

"It was wonderful — a blessing from the Lord and from [the church members], too," she said on Monday. "They were working with joy."

She and her husband (it was a second marriage for both) lived there together since 1973, but he'd lived in the house previously. He worked for the Arlington County Sanitation Department and fixed all manner of appliances, at home, in his spare time, until his death two years ago.

Marcie and Don Tuggle of Oak Hill were co-captains of the renovation project. They've participated in this event for nine years and were right there, Saturday, in the thick of things. "It's such a nice program," said Marcie. "And it did 82 homes, this weekend, in Fairfax and Arlington counties."

Floris contributed $2,500 toward the work on Barbour's home, and Zampiello Paint Contractors, Windows Plus, Capital One and An Exteriors and Remodeling also made significant donations of supplies and/or money. And two of Barbour's 16 stepchildren (14 are still living), Ray and Glen Barbour, worked alongside the church volunteers.

THE CREW BEGAN AT 8 A.M. and didn't go home until after 5 p.m. Workers renovated the bathroom — taking out old tile and putting in linoleum, replaced the kitchen cabinets and sink and put in a new dishwasher. They painted each room, replaced windows where needed and recaulked them. They also replaced the original, wooden, front and back doors.

There was lots of yard work to do, too. Volunteers raked leaves, cut down old dead trees, mowed grass, trimmed shrubs, mulched, planted flowers and cleared out a huge amount of debris. Light fixtures and two windows were replaced in the basement and plumbing repairs were also done.

Because of the rain, the workers plan to return at a later date to replace the gutters and paint the outside of the house. And in the next week or so, they'll replace the electric fuse box with a more modern one.

"It's really great," said Glen Barbour of the home sprucing-and-repair project. "It shows love, and the love of God in the lives of men coming to help people in need."

On Saturday, Marcie Tuggle and Mary Ann Kral of Reston drove back and forth to Home Depot for supplies — "Plumbing, linoleum, copper pipe, drill bits — the things we didn't anticipate needing," said Tuggle.

Kral also did landscaping, and Tuggle helped man the hospitality tent where workers came for breaks, snacks and cold drinks. She keeps participating in the Rebuilding Together project because "it's so hands on, it helps a member of the community and we love the fellowship."

Her husband Don said lots of people new to Floris didn't know others in the church, so working together on the home gave them the opportunity to meet and get to know each other. "And it makes a stronger church," he said. "It gives them a better connection in it."

He organized the whole shebang at the Clifton house and began work a month ahead of time. "I did an assessment to see what the house needed and what we could do, under budget, and in one day," he explained. "Then I purchased and picked up all the materials [from the stores]."

DON TUGGLE ALSO ORGANIZED the volunteers into teams of four to 15 people, on the basis of their skills, to take on particular tasks such as the kitchen, interior paint, doors, landscaping, etc. "It's like a big puzzle," he said. "People signed up, and I matched them up to jobs according to what they said they could do."

Then on Saturday, he oversaw the work, helped people find materials and solved problems. For example, he said, "After we ripped up the kitchen cabinets, we discovered the floor underneath was rotted, so we had to patch it."

Jack Zechman of Herndon replaced windows and didn't mind one bit that he was dirty and grubby from the rain, the mud and all his hard work. "My neighbors had been involved [with this project] in the past, and it sounded like the thing to do to help the community," he explained. "It was a challenge trying to get new windows to fit in the space the old ones had occupied, but working with everybody has been very nice."

In her second year with the Rebuilding Together effort, Oak Hill's Lynn McDonald said, "It's a good community-service project, and I learn skills I can use at my own house, such as pruning and mulching. I also learn about different kinds of tools and rakes and what works best in particular situations." A member of the landscaping crew, she said her favorite part is "looking at it when it's almost done and seeing if you made a difference."

RESTON'S RON KRAL HEADED THE LANDSCAPING TEAM and said its toughest task was cutting up and taking away a large tree that had been blown over by the wind. Hauling away vast amounts of debris was also no easy trick.

Vergie Barbour's late husband did repair work on the side, and objects he'd been working on were strewn all over the property. "We took out about 60 old tires and old lawnmowers," said Kral. "We filled up a dumpster with them and with old appliances. We hauled up all the metal pieces, and it wasn't 'everything but the kitchen sink' — we found the kitchen sink."

No one knows exactly when the Barbours last did such a thorough spring cleaning, but among Kral's finds was a newspaper dated Nov. 20, 1928. He, too, didn't mind working hard on a Saturday. In his fifth year with the project, he said, "It just makes a difference in somebody's life."

Oak Hill's Derek Rill helped with the hauling. "The funniest things I found were a huge, professional carpet cleaner — under a bush — and plums from 1982," he said. "We also found two, very large ovens that we had to take the doors off to move."

In mid-afternoon, after raking, mulching and helping haul away tires, Reston's Barbara Jobson finally got to the fun part — planting flowers. Working on Christmas in April homes for some 11 years, she said she enjoys "doing for others" and "making [their homes] look better."

On Monday, Barbour marveled at the changes in her Clifton house. "There's so much improvement," she said. "They painted all the inside of the house — and I especially like my new kitchen cabinets and sink."