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UMW rugby team sponsors annual service project


Saturday morning was a lesson in using primer paint for a handful of college students.

“More is less,” coach Tim Brown repeatedly told the guys from the University of Mary Washington’s club rugby team in a community-service project turned home-improvement lesson.

Bare spots on the wooden railing of a back porch needed some attention before getting a fresh coat of paint, and the fenced-in backyard should see a new layer of mulch.

Within a few weeks, the newly renovated downtown house will be a transition home for women and children who are survivors of domestic violence, through the local organization Empowerhouse, formerly known as the Rappahannock Council on Domestic Violence.

Families will be able to stay at the three-bedroom duplex for around six months as a step between a shelter and a permanent house, said director Kathy Anderson.

“It’s going to look so fresh and beautiful,” she said.

Brown said he frequently drives past Empowerhouse’s office on Harrison Road and called to see if the team could help. Aside from work at the new transition house, players will be sprucing up the outside of the office.

Each year, the 50-or-so-member team identifies a charity to help, said Brown, himself a Mary Washington graduate who now works in the health care industry.

The club isn’t required to do service work, but feels that it’s important. Three businesses offer support: Caldwell Banker Elite, Line–X Protective Coatings and Strong Lad.

“As young adults, we take a lot from this community, and this is our chance to give back,” said junior Eric Knapp, 21.

Knapp, the team’s volunteer coordinator, said the team wants to keep helping out.

For example, the team also has collected trash-destined clothing from campus dorms at the end of the semester, and donated the thousands of items to Micah Ecumenical Ministries.

“We’re really starting to build up the service program,” he said.

Of course, days spent volunteering together—whether it’s collecting clothes or raking leaves—are also ideal for bonding.

“It’s fun being with these guys,” said sophomore Jordan Reece, 20.

Meanwhile, community partnerships have been vital in making the transition house come together.

Doris Buffett and her organization The Sunshine Lady Foundation purchased the 1909 home last year and turned it over to Empowerhouse. That gift has inspired other individuals and groups to help the project, Anderson said.

“We’re really delighted we have more housing opportunities in our community,” she said.

It could open in a few weeks, once renovation work wraps up and the last pieces of furniture are acquired. Empowerhouse is asking for donations of new living-room furniture and new mattresses.

Last year, the organization helped 2,400 people, through various groups, a 24-hour hotline (540/373-9373), its shelter and rental assistance.

Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975