By DEIRDRE C. MAYS
CHAPIN — In record-breaking heat and humidity, a group of Home Works teens hammered, sawed and dug as sweat dripped in their eyes and soaked through their clothes.
They were serious about their tasks because it was too hot to talk but they stooped good-naturedly to pet the dog running underfoot, laughed at the odd joke and brushed away the ants that bit their ankles.
In between swigs of water they described what they were doing as “fun.”
No, the heat and the ants weren’t fun but the reason for their toil was. They were helping people out and joining in a common discipleship of caring in Home Works.
From June 21 through 28 two groups of teen-agers worked on eight Home Works sites around the Chapin area. The work included plumbing, repairing floors, painting, building stairs, sheet rock and roofing.
On Thursday of that week the students helped build a small deck and front and back steps to a trailer. They had to hammer, saw, measure, dig and cement. Later that afternoon, they expected 19 tons of sand to be delivered to fill in the ground under the trailer.
In most Home Works projects, teens follow the lead of volunteers who know about construction needs and then fill in the rest. Sometimes, adult volunteers are scarce.
Layne Waters, a member of Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Columbia, however, was one adult who was going to be late for work. He stayed an extra day to help build steps and do the basic structure so the youths could finish without his help.
Hank Chardos, who directs the program, said that all of their efforts revolve around faith. They start and finish their day off with prayer and Communion. Their work also incorporates the charitable actions of the community as all the materials were donated by Home Depot and area churches and families hosted the meals.
The homes were identified for repairs by We Care, an outreach organization in Chapin. Home Works selected houses from that list on their ability to do the work.
It is an interfaith cooperation. Last year, Chardos said, a Presbyterian group built a ramp for a woman who was confined to a wheelchair, but the door to her home was too narrow. So, Home Works finished up the task by rebuilding her front entrance.
Kathy Griffith, 15, a member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Aiken, summed up the most difficult part of this mission: the heat.
There was no shade on their site and the group had erected a canopy which provided minor relief. But that didn’t bother the teens, they were out there to help people less fortunate.
Marie Connelly, 15, of Our Lady of the Lake in Chapin, said it was hard for them to stay on task sometimes because they ran out of adults. She thought it a worthwhile experience, regardless, and had brought along her friend Angela Ellis, 15, also from Our Lady of the Lake.
Stephen Fitzgerald, 15, a member of White Rock Baptist church in Chapin said his girlfriend, a member of Our Lady of the Lake and on a team at a different site, got him involved.
He said the work was not too hard.
“It’s a good opportunity,” he explained. “I wouldn’t have anything else to do. I’ve learned how to put on storm doors. I definitely plan to do it again.”
Waters had nothing but compliments for the group.
“They are great kids and it’s a pleasure to be with them,” he said.
Two girls from Charleston joined the group, 17-year-old Anna Tecklenburg from the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, who is in her second year with Home Works and Judi Wagner, 16, from St. Thomas the Apostle. Both said they just wanted to help out.
Ricky Velilla, 14, from Lake Murray Evangelical Church in Chapin, said he heard about the project from his grandmother who attends the Catholic church. Both he and his brother joined Home Works because they felt it was the right thing to do.
“I believe God would like me to do work for the community, tell his story and witness,” he said.
It was 14-year-old Nick Younginer’s second project. The member of St. Peter’s in Columbia, said he was not really looking forward to it the first time because he didn’t know what to expect.
“I was surprised because it’s really fun,” he said. “I’m going to do more.”
And it was 15-year-old Sean Murphy’s fifth project. The member of Our Lady of the Lake was a site leader.
“It’s incredible that people come out here and spend their time doing this,” he said.
Though the resident at this particular site only peaked out the window, other homeowners often pitch in and help. Sean said he had seen the children assisting at many homes. Working side by side with people made it more of a meaningful experience.
“Whatever the situation,” he said. “We’re here to do it for them.”
That’s an attitude that makes Chardos proud of his crews.
He encourages them to think for themselves and figure out problems on their own while providing them with enough technical guidance and parental care. He couldn’t compliment the teens enough for what they were willing to do and how they were willing to share.
“This is not just hammers and paintbrushes,” he said. “It’s sharing your faith.”