Lending a hand to those in need
By Bob Kasarda
VALPARAISO When Geneva Spencer's husband built the couple's home 61 years ago, Evans Avenue out front was just a gravel road, the home was heated by coal and drew its water from a well.
There have been a lot of improvements since then, but Spencer is now 83 years old and has a tougher time keeping up with routine maintenance around the house that she hopes to remain in for as long as possible.
As a result, she was thankful Saturday morning to see a group of volunteers show up from the Rebuilding Together-Valparaiso program.
"It's wonderful," Spencer said.
Nine members of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity from Valparaiso University quickly went to work raking the yard, weeding and preparing to paint a rear porch along with building a handrail on the front porch.
"We do it every year," fraternity member Alex Johnson, of Wisconsin, said.
The volunteer work is part of the fraternity's focus on philanthropy, he said.
Fraternity member Luke Easterday, of Michigan, sees it as a way to give something back to the local community.
He said the group planned to spend the day working at this home and others if needed, and then take part in an overnight Relay for Life cancer benefit at the university for what would amount to 24 consecutive hours of service.
Just across the road, members of Valparaiso University's Chi Omega sorority were busy raking the lawn and cleaning gutters at another home as part of the Rebuilding Together-Valparaiso program.
Kevin Largura, coordinating work at both of the houses, said he got involved in the program again three years ago because he realized the many needs of some homeowners and the fact everyone is going to need help some day.
"(I) do it while I can," he said.
The Rebuilding Together-Valparaiso program, which grew out of the former Christmas in April effort, was started in 1990 as a coordinated effort between the city of Valparaiso and Valparaiso University, said university Director of Media Relations Dustin Wunderlich.
He said 60 students from the university volunteered this year.