Christmas arrived almost two weeks early for Dixie Dawson.
A group of about 50 volunteers — most of whom are employees of Sun Design, a Burke-based home-remodeling company — spent Saturday repairing Dawson’s home and constructing a new deck and wheelchair ramp for her.
Dawson, 53, has spina bifida, a condition that limits her mobility. She has lived in the small, one-story home in Clifton nearly her entire life. Her parents moved into the homein 1962, when Dawson was 6 months old.
The house has fallen into disrepair since Dawson’s mother died five years ago. Except for a full-time home health aide, Dawson lives by herself, and struggles to get by on her Social Security benefits.
“This obviously needed to be done,” said Dawson’s sister, Gayle Garcia, 50, of Chantilly. “But it’s just been a struggle for everybody, just making sure that you have enough money to pay your monthly bills, let alone put on a new deck.”
When Bob Gallagher of Clifton heard about Dawson’s situation through a friend of his daughter, he knew that he could help. As co-owner of Sun Design, which has offices in Burke and McLean, he had access to materials and workers who could make the needed repairs.
Last month, Sun Design organized a charity tour of a house on Cannon Fort Drive in Clifton that the firm had remodeled. That event brought in more than $1,000 in donations for Dawson’s remodeling project, Sun Design spokeswoman Beth Walters said.
“An electrician that we use a lot is volunteering his time and efforts, and a mason that we use is helping with the chimney that needs to be fixed,” Gallagher said. Local suppliers TW Perry and Trex donated lumber and other materials for the job.
The project became more complicated when workers discovered a problem under the flooring in the living room, Gallagher said. The joists had rotted off the foundation, adding to the list of necessary repairs.
There was a festive air surrounding the remodeling project Saturday, which was an unusually warm day for December. Volunteers in yellow shirts made repairs, cut lumber and laid decking boards, while their children chased one another around the property.
Most of the volunteers were Sun Design employees, some of whom were just getting acquainted with one another, co-owner Craig Durosko said.
“We have people on different job sites all over Northern Virginia, Bethesda and Potomac, Maryland,” he said. “So it’s neat to get everyone together in one place for one day. You get people from the office, you get designers, you get salespeople and you get everybody from the field working together. I think we take away as much as we give.”
Durosko estimated the value of the project at $25,000, including labor and materials.
Dawson, who had been staying at the Westfields Marriott for a few days while workers prepared for the remodeling project, arrived on the scene with Garcia early in the afternoon.
Garcia became emotional expressing her gratitude toward everyone who contributed.
“We just feel so thankful and blessed to know that there are people in the world that do this for people that can’t afford it, [taking] time out of their busy schedules,” she said.
By 3:30 p.m., Dawson was ready to try out her new wheelchair ramp. Accompanied by Walters, she slowly made her way up the ramp to the deck as the volunteers cheered.
“I just love it,” she called out when she reached the top.
Barnes is a freelance writer.