The History of Christmas in April and Rebuilding Together
President Reagan Receives The Ronald Reagan Award for Volunteer Excellence from Bobby Trimble
In 1982, on behalf of her husband, the President, Nancy Reagan presented Bobby Trimble with the very first President's Volunteer Action Award in recognition of the program he created called Christmas in April.
Six years later, on behalf of millions of volunteers in America, Mr. Trimble had the honor of presenting a new award to President Reagan. That medal was called "The Ronald Reagan Award for Volunteer Excellence." It will be presented each year by all future Presidents of the United States to the individual who symbolizes the very best of voluntarism in our country.
In the fall of 1973, an oil scout named Bobby Trimble and a group of friends saw a problem that needed fixing in their hometown of Midland, Texas: a growing number of their neighbors needed help maintaining their homes. Low-income and disabled people, the elderly in particular, could no longer afford to have leaks repaired, defective wiring corrected, rotting steps replaced and handrails installed. Trimble and his friends decided to do something about it. They reasoned that the old idea of "barn raising" could be revived and applied to modern cities. They began recruiting skilled and unskilled volunteers to work one day a year to paint and repair their neighbors' houses in order to make them warm, safe and dry once again.
The first workday was in October 1973, when the homes of 17 Midland residents were repaired. In December, volunteers met to discuss the work that had been done earlier in the year. During the meeting, they agreed to do another project in six months, which put the annual workday in April.
In 1974, when asked by a volunteer what she thought of the program, a female recipient replied:
"Lordy, it was just like Christmas"
At the next volunteer meeting, it was unanimously agreed to call the program "Christmas in April"
In 1988, with the help of Steve Winchell, John McMeel and Bobby Trimble, a national program, Christmas in April, USA, was formed to help spread the program throughout the United States. Patty Johnson, former Executive Director of the Washington, D.C. program, was hired as the first Executive Director for Christmas in April, USA. Thirteen cities were involved that first year.
Christmas in April Baltimore was founded in 1989 by Joanna von Briesen, Howard Hunt, Thomas Jaudon, and Geoffrey Krug. Since its first Rebuilding Day in 1990, the Baltimore affiliate has organized more than 19,400 volunteers to perform repairs valued at over $6.1 million on more than 966 homes in Baltimore City and Baltimore County, Maryland.
From those early days, the idea has spread to include more than 235 local affiliates in communities from all 50 states. The work of more than 2,700,000 volunteers, in over 1,880 cities and towns throughout America, has resulted in the repair and rehabilitation of more than 105,000 houses and non-profit facilities involving more than 27,000,000 volunteer hours.
Rebuilding Together is now the largest volunteer organization preserving and revitalizing low-income houses and communities in the nation.
While the program began as an annual community project for a men's Sunday school group, on a national level it has always been a non-sectarian organization. Over the years it has evolved into many different local programs offering different community based services. Some affiliates continue to focus on a single large annual event, National Rebuilding Day, while other affiliates have expanded their mission to include emergency repairs, accessible housing modifications, at risk community projects, homeowner workshops and a variety of other year-round services for the needy.
As a result of this expansion of the original mission, in the spring of 2000, the National Board of Directors and the National Affiliate Council voted to adopt a new name that would more accurately reflect the work of the organization as a whole. In the fall of 2000, a new logo was adopted and in early 2001, Rebuilding Together, Inc. became the new name of the umbrella organization. Local affiliates may choose to retain their original Christmas in April name, co-brand using Rebuilding Together with Christmas in April, or simply adopt the new name of Rebuilding Together.
Christmas in April Baltimore officially became Rebuilding Together Baltimore, Inc. in March, 2001. While our name has changed, our focus has not. We continue to work with local businesses, community associations, City and County government, religious and educational groups, to preserve and revitalize houses and communities in Baltimore City and Baltimore County; assuring that low-income homeowners, especially the elderly, disabled, and families with children, live in warmth, safety and independence.