'Tis The Season


Pepper Burruss prepares some scaffolding

On one side of the house, the old shingles were being removed. On the other, new roof paper was going down. And the freestanding garage -- just waiting for new shingles -- was already benefiting from a fresh coat of paint.

Dozens of workers crisscrossed the yard, with Packers trainer Pepper Burruss near the epicenter of the action. But this wasn't his house and he wasn't playing hooky. Instead, Burruss was among the numerous Packers employees teaming up with the greater Green Bay Area Christmas in May Foundation to refurbish a house in East Green Bay.

It's the seventh straight year the Packers have been associated with the local branch of Washington, D.C.'s Rebuilding Together program, which looks to help elderly, low-income families stay in their homes.

One of 21 local corporate sponsors, the Packers also lend to the more than 500 volunteers that will refurbish homes like this one in the Green Bay area this weekend. Some 80 volunteers will spend as many as 35 hours working at this house alone.

Past results have been unmistakable.

A few years ago, a woman who spent time in the hospital while her house received a Christmas in May overhaul, thought she'd returned to the wrong neighborhood when the car stopped in front of her repaired domicile -- the changes had been so dramatic, she no longer recognized it.

The Packers and other Christmas in May participants are hoping the results will be similar for this homeowner, Frances Petri. By the end of the weekend, her home will have received a new roof, new interior and exterior paint job, a remodeled bathroom and new carpeting, among other repairs.

Already, Petri is overjoyed.

"The home owner's daughter called me and said her mom is having a hard time getting in and out of the house lately," said George Semenak of Georgia Pacific Corporation, who is a member of the local Christmas in May board. "I thought, 'Oh no, this is not a good thing.' And then she said that her mom's smile was so big that she could hardly fit through the door anymore."

There are wide smiles on the faces of the volunteers, too, which is part of what makes the project so unique.

"It's one thing to raise money like you would for a normal fundraiser, but with this you feel so good when you walk away because you see the product of your labor," said Packers director of family programs Sherry Schuldes, who is vice president of this year's Christmas in May program. "You could do repairs at your own home, but to do this for someone else is a very special feeling."

As a matter of fact, volunteers often find themselves enjoying the same tasks from which they normally refrain, Semenak said, noting that at his house he'll do anything to avoid painting, but for Christmas in May he can't wait to pick up a brush.

"The program benefits the volunteer as much as the home owner," he said. "We walk away feeling as good about doing the job as they do about receiving the project."

Said Schuldes, "You come here with a paintbrush and a hammer and a smile on your face and know that you are going to make someone very happy. Every year the Green Bay Packers' involvement with Christmas in May has proved to be something that is extremely special and we're proud to be a part of it."

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