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Military Makeover: DC Airmen volunteer to renovate local home

113th Wing Civil Engineering Squadron members Larry Countiss, Capt. Matt Duller and Senior Master Sgt. Sterlin Wilson assess the repair needs of an interior wall Saturday, April 30, 2016 during a Christmas In April renovation project in Forestville, Maryland. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Capt. Nathan Wallin)

113th Wing Civil Engineering Squadron members Larry Countiss, Capt. Matt Duller and Senior Master Sgt. Sterlin Wilson assess the repair needs of an interior wall Saturday, April 30, 2016 during a Christmas In April renovation project in Forestville, Maryland. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Capt. Nathan Wallin)

Volunteers from the 113th Wing, District of Columbia Air National Guard make repairs to the home of Grace Williams, 75, as part of the in Prince George’s County’s Christmas in April program Forestville, Md, April 30. The program allowed for the members of the DCANG to give back to their community and help those in need. (U.S Air National Guard photo by Capt. Nathan Wallin)

Volunteers from the 113th Wing, District of Columbia Air National Guard make repairs to the home of Grace Williams as part of the in Prince George’s County’s Christmas in April program in Forestville, Md,, April 30, 2016. The program is one avenue that members of the DCANG use to give back to their community and help those in need. (U.S Air National Guard photo by Capt. Nathan Wallin)

WASHINGTON -- While many of us were still asleep on the Saturday morning of April 30, a group of 20 D.C. Air National Guard Airmen arrived at Forestville, Md., with one goal: to make a difference in their community, especially for one individual. 

Forestville community member 73-year-old Grace Williams lived in a 1951 home in need of dire repairs. Prince George's County's "Christmas in April" program provided Williams the opportunity to welcome the DCANG construction specialists to repair her 65-year-old home.

"This is an excellent opportunity and we've got the perfect line-up," said Col. Robert D. Bowie, 113th Wing Vice Commander. "We've got folks here that have a lot of different skills."

The DCANG's 113th Wing Civil Engineering Squadron and the ANG Readiness Center volunteers included plumbers, electricians, structural engineers and command staff, all ready to put their skills to use. The volunteer group landscaped Williams' yard, installed new fences, mended leaky roofs and poured fresh concrete. The group also replaced old appliances with new ones.

The project was a win-win for the Wing. As members of the local community, the 113th Airmen demonstrated their commitment and service to their local community, and this also provided them with a real-world training opportunity.

"A lot of civil engineering people volunteer because this is what we do on a daily basis," said Senior Master Sgt. Sterlin Wilson, 113th Wing project manager. "We go into these places and find that they need a lot of repairs."

At the Forestville home, the volunteers ripped open and replaced an interior wall, patched two roofs, fixed a dangerous tripping hazard in the front walkway and installed a new washer, dryer, dishwasher and an oven.

"That roof job was critical," Bowie said. "The repair saved the homeowner nearly $5,000. That critical repair likely saved her roof."

Overwhelmed by emotion and gratitude, Williams choked back tears as she thanked the volunteers, both in the beginning and end of the construction.

"Y'all gave up your Saturday to help me," she said. "I'm so grateful."

Bowie stressed the importance of the good community relations the National Guard has with their surrounding communities.

"We're here, we live here, and we're going to be back with this program year after year," he said.

At the end of work day the volunteers' boots were dirty, their hands were calloused. But their faces, some messy with dirt and dust, all were smiles.

"I cannot express to you how it makes me feel," said Williams. "Just sitting here talking to you is making tears come to my eyes because of the joy. It's such a blessing."