Christmas in April outreach restores dignity to homeowners


COLUMBIA — Hank Chardos, director of Home Works of South Carolina and his 470 volunteers had much to accomplish on April 7, the day designated as “Christmas in April.” Twenty homes in disrepair received makeovers, thanks to donated supplies and an enthusiastic volunteer labor force organized by Home Works.

The volunteers and 46 site supervisors arrived at their respective homes at 7 a.m., beginning the day with the morning prayers from the liturgy of the hours. “We always start with prayer because our energy stems from prayer,” said Chardos. “I did not know how everything was going to work out, but we ended up going way beyond what we thought we could accomplish in a day.” Chardos was especially grateful for the beautiful weather that allowed the numerous outdoor jobs like landscaping, painting, and roof repairs to be completed.

Home Works, an ecumenical organization, resulted from Chardos’ exposure to a similar Methodist service group his daughter Jennifer was involved with as a youth. He decided to start Home Works to provide opportunities for not only Catholic teens and adults but for people of all faiths to work on home repairs and improvements for the elderly and disadvantaged. In addition to the one-day blitz, Home Works also has five weeklong projects in the summer where more extensive work can be done.

“We are not just about paint, but we come to restore dignity to the homeowners,” said Chardos. In one home, the plumbing was fixed and there was running water again. Home Works also purchased toiletries that would allow the owner to bath in his home for the first time in years. “The bathroom was despicable, but we had people working half a day to fix it up,” he recalled. 

First-time volunteers like Caralee Lackore from St. John Neumann’s confirmation class in Columbia got the message of how their work profoundly touched the homeowners when one of the owners, Tyron Reeves, asked to lead the evening prayers where he thanked each volunteer by name. “I think the youth are the future. If I do good things for humanity, it will make me a better person and a better future leader. It is important to learn how to put other’s need before your own,” said Lackore.

Keith Bacon, one of the site leaders became involved with Home Works through the urging of his daughter, Leah, who asked him to go in her place one weekend. He was so inspired he now is a leader, and his enthusiasm has been transferred to his son, Stephen, and wife, Mary Ann, who now accompany him on various projects. Stephen remembers the first time he helped Home Works. “I did not know what to expect, but now I look forward to helping. We are doing what Christ intended for us to do. If others need help, we help them out,” said the 10th-grade student from St. Peter Church in Columbia.

Parent and child coming together to put their faith in action is a common occurrence at Home Works community projects. Chardos sees the mentoring of adults as an essential component to passing on the faith to the next generation. “It was a day filled with miracles,” exclaimed Chardos, who is already planning his next community outreach.