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'Extreme Home Makeover'

CUMC brings Christmas in April to Herndon family.

Santa's elves don't do home repairs but, luckily, those participating in RPJ Housing's Rebuilding Together program do.

And under that program, 35 people representing Centreville United Methodist Church (CUMC) brought Christmas in April, this Saturday, to a Herndon couple in need.

They did plumbing and electrical work, roofing, siding and yardwork and painted the whole interior of the couple's modest home on Magnolia Lane. And homeowners Anna and Jimmy Brim were astounded by the results and grateful for the volunteers' efforts.

"IT'S FANTASTIC," said Jimmy Brim. "It looks like a different house — wow! Everybody's a brother and sister under the one roof of God, so it's like family coming over to help out."

"I'm totally amazed," said Anna Brim. "They've been working hard; they're truly a blessing."

CUMC participates in the program each year, and volunteers worked Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. And after a few hours, the outdoor crew was covered in mud and the indoor crew was splattered with paint, but that was OK — they didn't mind a bit.

"We're just happy to help," said one of the project captains, Steve Shaiko of Virginia Run. "And you can see it in Jimmy's face that it's worth it. I'm sure that, if the shoe were on the other foot, they'd be helping us, too."

A church member since December 1990, on Saturday he painted the Brims' master bathroom and bedroom, fixed a toilet and repaired holes in the drywall. He said CUMC paid $2,500 for the privilege of getting the house from Rebuilding Together, and the organization provided most of the materials.

Originally, the volunteers just planned to do some painting, electrical and plumbing work and wall repairs. "But we increased the scope of the project, so we had to get more materials," said Shaiko. And the workers dug deep into their own pockets to come up with the extra $500 that it all cost.

"We realized we needed to do the outside, too, so we went and got the mulch, sod, plants and border from Home Depot," said Shaiko. "My wife Barb made several trips there. I think she knows all the clerks now on a first-name basis."

THE HOME WAS BUILT in 1972, and the Brims and their 14-year-old daughter Jamie, a freshman at Herndon High, have lived there since 1989. Since both of Jimmy Brim's kidneys failed, they've been living on Anna's income as a receptionist at a Reston law firm.

And with all the medical bills, said Anna, what money they have is "not enough to do all the work" needed on the house. So when her boss gave her a flyer about the Rebuilding Together program, she called the phone number on the form and applied. "I figured I'd just take a chance," she said. "And they called me back."

Actually, Saturday's work was a continuation and completion of work done at the home all week by Cas and Sons, the contracting company owned by CUMC's Lee Caslavka of Fair Lakes Chase. The house captain, he had his employees do the plumbing, flooring, drywall and electrical work — and it was extensive.

"Water from rain was flowing in from the roof into Jamie's bedroom and down an inside wall in the living room," he said. "So we pulled out all the drywall in her bedroom, replaced the wall framing and put in new drywall and trim. We did drywall repairs in the living room, too."

"My lead carpenter, Jason Kirkpatrick, and another employee, Manuel Alberto, each put in 40 hours of work this week [on the house]," said Caslavka. He also got other companies involved in the effort.

"I had JFR Electric of Sterling come in to redo the electrical connections for the kitchen, guest bath and Jamie's bedroom," he said. "And it donated all the electrical work and materials. And Ron Stevens, of Stevens and Wrenn Plumbing of Manassas, donated all his time and materials, too."

Chris Vansant, chairman of the CUMC trustees, came Saturday with friend Kim Law of Alexandria. "I was cutting pieces of wood for floor molding," said Law. "I like volunteering and being able to give back to the community. I did it last year, too, and it was pretty rewarding. It's a good group of people."

VANSANT HAS worked on the Christmas in April projects for three or four years, now. Saturday, she installed the molding in the kitchen and around the bottom of the living-room window. "I like to fix and construct things and learn from people who do this for a living," she said. "And I like being able to help other people."

"One of the greatest things about this program is that it gives us the opportunity to get to know people in the community, to serve and to build relationships," said Barb Shaiko, CUMC's missions director. She also noted that people showed up, on their own, with lawn tools.

"It's kind of neat how just trimming bushes helps," said Bill Sjolinder of Newgate. "Next thing we knew, we had the whole yard done."

Rich Thompson of Gate Post Estates brought daughter Meghan, 14, with him, and both worked on the home. "I put in a new garbage disposal and smoke detectors and did a lot of painting," said Thompson. "It's nice to invest one day and be able to see a really big difference for eight or 10 hours of work. And it would have been impossible for [the Brims] to do all this themselves."

CASLAVKA SAID ALL the work would have cost $12,000-$13,000 if it had been professionally done. "The landscaping, alone, would have been $2,500," he said. The volunteers took out an unsightly, overgrown holly tree in the front yard, planted azaleas, created a flowerbed border and put down sod for a new lawn.

"It's the first year I've done this that it's rained," he said. "But it didn't stop us." He has participated in this event for 11 years and still enjoys it. "I've been very blessed, and there are a lot of people less fortunate than we are," said Caslavka. "But we couldn't do anything without the people from the church volunteering to help."

Surveying the scene Saturday afternoon, Anna Brim was delighted. "I feel absolutely marvelous," she said. "It's a wonderful program, and we had wonderful people here. They really did a nice job. Every little thing I needed — even missing doorknobs — they took care of. And they sealed the windows, too. I am so thrilled!"

"This is a perfect example of what can be accomplished when people work together for a common cause," added her husband. "Now we need to get a welcome mat."