Home Works nails a need in South Carolina

COLUMBIA — Homeowners in need were blessed recently when Home Works volunteers turned out for a labor blitz at sites in the Midlands and the Lowcountry.

Home Works, based in Columbia, is an outreach  that offers home repairs to people in need. The organization was founded by Hank Chardos in 1996 with a mission “to show God’s love through service to others and to assist others in the faith journey with an ecumenical spirit” as stated on its Web site. Over the past 11 years, 900 homeowners in South Carolina and around the Southeast have been helped by these volunteers.

“Home Works grows through people taking part and then bringing a friend or a relative back again with them,” said Chardos, chief executive. “When they take part, people see that they can help others in very ordinary, simple ways, such as scraping a window or cleaning out a cupboard.”

On April 22, volunteers that included youths from the Church of the Nativity on James Island, Stella Maris on Sullivan’s Island, Bishop England High School on Daniel Island and the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist/St. Mary of the Annunciation Church in Charleston helped with repairs in Charleston.

In an effort dubbed “Christmas in Columbia,” 1,000 people worked on 37 home sites around the Columbia area while others worked in Fort Mill, Rock Hill, Aiken, Greenville and Camden on April 29.

In Charleston, volunteers repaired the Sutherland Street home of a woman who cares for a daughter  bedridden by multiple sclerosis. It was the first time Home Works held a work day on the peninsula, and volunteers are setting up more projects in the Holy City for later in the year.

“What’s neat is volunteers in Charleston will no longer have to travel all the way to Columbia to work with Home Works,” Chardos said. “They’ll be able to help people right in their own neck of the woods.”

Daniel Hudacko, youth leader at Church of the Nativity, said 10 of his group painted window frames, installed a new ceiling and put down new flooring for the mother and daughter.

“The day was a very rewarding experience,” he said. “It was a chance to really connect with the family and get to know them. They were very thankful for what we were able to do for them.”

Chardos described the April 29 workday as “a day filled with miracles.” Good weather prevailed around the state and repairs were either completed or nearly done at all of the home sites.

In Fort Mill, youth group members from St. Phillip Neri Church were part of a group who worked on the home of Elwin Ellis, a widower who lost his wife two years ago and needed some urgent attention to his home.

“Our efforts aren’t just to do the repairs, but to sit with the homeowner, to find out about the pictures over his mantle, and to let him know there are people right in his community who care about him,” Chardos said.

Craig Brown, youth director at St. Phillip Neri, took a group of volunteers to a Home Works summer session in Fayetteville, N.C., in 2006 and received such a good response that the young people asked to begin an initiative in Fort Mill. Chardos said he has been talking to city officials there about a permanent presence.

In order to qualify for Home Works assistance, a person must own the home that needs repairing and everyone in the household must be on a fixed income and have no other means of support. Chardos said many of those who get assistance are elderly, disabled or caring for someone with a disability.

In Rock Hill, volunteers came from the youth group at St. Anne Church. Chardos said several of the people assisted were originally on a list of needy people scheduled for the summer of 2006 from a Baptist volunteer group. That group was unable to go, however, because volunteers were diverted to the Gulf Coast to help with cleanup and rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina.

Chardos said they are forming a partnership with the city of Rock Hill.

Home Works is an ecumenical effort that attracts people from churches and community organizations. Chardos said the United Way in Camden has become actively involved.

“When you come to one of these work sites and see five people putting skirting on a house, you won’t know who is the Catholic, who is the Protestant,” he said. “That’s what’s special about the ecumenical nature of this program. Everyone is doing the same work together.”

On a scheduled work day, volunteers meet at a site at 7 a.m. and labor until 5 p.m., weather permitting.

“Each day begins with prayer because that’s where our energies to do this come from,” Chardos said.

He said prayers begin at the same time on all sites during a blitz so the volunteers can feel that they are working in unison with others.

Chardos said Home Works will do another one-day blitz in October, and volunteers also will take part in 11 week-long projects around the Southeast during the summer.