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Home Depot volunteers makeover Miami Rescue Mission’s Women’s center


Special to The Miami Herald
Sylvia Rojas, 57, lost her job as a certified nurse’s aide a year and a half ago. She feared not having a place to live.

“The thought of being homeless got me depressed,” said Rojas, who lived with her 7-year-old grandchild and ex-husband. “It brought anxiety and made me feel worthless and useless.”

Rojas’ sorrow turned to happiness on Tuesday thanks to 40 Home Depot volunteers who gave the 17-room Miami Rescue Mission Women and Children’s Center a mini-makeover. Volunteers planted new trees, painted and installed two new washers and dryers at the center.

“I feel good because the place looks new,” said Rojas, who with grandson Mckley Merritt has lived three months at the Center, 2250 NW First Ave., since being evicted for not paying rent.

Holding a paint roller and wearing an orange Team Depot T-shirt, Coconut Grove resident Kimberly Homer says volunteering is second nature to her.

“Learning to appreciate the little things keeps you humble,” said Homer who has been participating in volunteer work since she was 14 years-old.

Homer, along with other Home Depot Gives Back volunteers, painted the living room and cafeteria area in beige and yellow using Glidden paint. The top floor was also painted using similar colors. The center staff picked the colors.

Helpers used 76 bags of mulch to add to the playground and the front area of the building. Volunteers also replaced and tightened loose pallets on the playground wooden fence, which was also painted in green and blue.

“We felt with today’s economy, we would have more people finding themselves in the mission than there would normally be,” said Tonia Morgan, Home Depot’s district human resource manager for West Miami-Dade. “Some people wanted to take a moment to give back.”

Home Depot donated a $4,500 gift card, which paid for the paint, mulch, and more than 80 plants such as bougainvilleas. The group also donated two dryers and two washers.

Marilyn Birriel, 21, who has been living in the center for three months, says the dryers and washers are essential.

“It’s awesome. I didn’t think they were going to do as much,” she said. “We needed the dryers.”

The playground was another area that needed to be revamped. Volunteers helped cut a large tree making way for space.

“The playground needed a tremendous uplift,” said Antonio Villasuso, the Mission’s Miami Center programs director. “The playground had no mulch.”

The Miami homeless center can hold up to 17 adults and 40 children. Currently, there are 12 women and 22 children living there. Two blocks away, the men’s center can house 250 people.

The Miami Rescue Mission, founded in 1922, serves 1,000 people at three campuses in Miami, Hollywood and Pompano Beach. The Christian faith-based center also offers several programs to help the homeless find work.

The center has had to convert offices into rooms because of an influx of homeless.

“There’s a necessity of people coming in,” Villasuso said. “There has been an increase.”

Villasuso said the fix-up was much needed.

“This uplifts everyone’s spirit not only during the holidays, but when they are living here they are going to use new things,” he said.

While painting the playground wooden fence, North Miami resident Maja Hurtado said that helping women and children hits close to home.

“The kids deserve a good childhood,” said Hurtado, a mother.

“They already have a rough situation. Whatever makes them better that makes me feel a lot better because they are the future.”

As for Rojas, the change is bringing inspiration for 2010.

“It lifts my spirits,” she said, smiling.

For information on the Miami Rescue Mission, go to www.miamirescuemission.com.

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