Christmas in April good to Keeling residents

By Michelle Roberts

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Ted Unruh and Wilma, his wife of 62 years, began building their home in 1944. He said he cannot quite remember when it was finished, but he believes it was either 1956 or 1957.

The 81-year-old retired Hughes assembly engineer helps take care of his wife, who has Alzheimer's disease. He said he doesn't have a lot of extra time to work on his house.

But tomorrow the house will be painted a sand color. His screen doors will be replaced, and some roof work will be done.

"It's going to be a great help. Every time I start a project I have to stop and put all the tools away. I don't get much done at any one time. I'm handicapped, not physically, but time-wise," Unruh said.

The Unruh house will be fixed up by employees from a trio of U.S. West companies through a community program called Christmas in April.

About 2,500 volunteers from the community, including about 230 University of Arizona employees and students, will help clean up yards and homes as well as perform basic carpentry in the Keeling neighborhood.

The neighborhood is between Stone and First Avenues, and Grant and Fort Lowell Roads, with Keeling Elementary School in the middle. The area was chosen in a competitive process, in which neighborhood associations applied and were interviewed by the Christmas in April of Greater Tucson committee.

The neighborhood's capacity to get involved in the work being done was a major consideration, said Christmas in April spokesperson Charlotte Wade.

There have been about $61,000 in contributions from businesses, community groups and individuals, but Wade said that there will be an estimated $500,000 total financial impact on the neighborhood, because of the work that is being done.

The residents of Kaibab-Huachuca Residence Hall raised $1,600. This is the second year the hall has been involved in Christmas in April, said hall director John Boyle.

All 17 members of the hall staff and 10 other residents will be involved in actually doing the work on a house. Boyle said one of the great things about the project is that the people being helped are actually there and last year even helped with the work.

"As a staff we wanted to do more than just be (resident assistants) in the hall. We wanted to help out in the community. I just hope that Residence Life and the halls continue to do things like this," Boyle said.

Even though this is Kaibab-Huachuca's second year being involved, this is the first year Christmas in April has been the campus-wide philanthropy project promoted by Project Volunteer.

Maria Barrow, a director at Project Volunteer, said "Every year at Project Volunteer, we try to choose a different philanthropy so that students can have a chance to get involved in different types of projects."

Most groups did not donate money but instead volunteered either part or the entire day to doing work on houses.

The campus groups involved range from Greek houses to Extended University staff.

"We're trying to get more involved with the community and campus, and this was a really good way," said Nikki Sutker, a family studies freshman from Sigma Delta Tau.

She and about 10 other members will help scrape and paint a house in the neighborhood tomorrow.

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