CHARLESTON — Three dozen teen and adult volunteers armed themselves with tools of the construction trade to repair eight homes in Charleston and North Charleston.
The group was working with the Columbia-based, non-profit Home Works organization, which teams with youth to fix houses owned by the elderly and people in need.
Hank Chardos, executive director and founder, and his team of Christian volunteers brought different levels of construction experience, and inexperience, to the work sites. The volunteers came from Elizabeth City, N.C., Augusta, Ga., Columbia, North Augusta and Charleston.
Chardos said most of the teenage volunteers don’t have any construction experience, so carpentry expert and volunteer Jose Rodriguez often brings extra plywood so the youth can learn from their mistakes.
“Without question, we’re not coming as Bob Villas,” Chardos said, referring to the famed TV home-repair expert. “We’re coming as Mother Teresas.”
Chardos, a member of St. Peter Church in Columbia, was inspired by his oldest daughter’s mission work when he founded Home Works in 1996. Since then, he and his volunteers have repaired 1,400 houses across the southeastern United States and in South America, including Hurricane Katrina-ravaged parts of Louisiana.
“What we’re all about is to enable the kids to touch with their hands and with their hearts so that they have an opportunity to absorb the wisdom of the elderly,” Chardos said. “It isn’t learning how to use a circular saw, it isn’t learning how to use a wrench. Rather it’s allowing them to understand that they can make a difference and give to people in need who otherwise have no one else to turn to.”
Pedro Barber, a teen volunteer from Columbia, said he joined Home Works because, “My dad wanted me to get out of the house.”
As a high schooler taking carpentry classes, Barber volunteered for one week in Columbia and then felt inspired to accompany the group to their Charleston work session.
“It’s hard work, but it’s fun to do,” he said. “It’s fun knowing that it helps people who need help.”
On June 25, Flora Montgomery of Charleston opened her doors to Home Works and to Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of the Diocese of Charleston, who wanted to witness the hard work of Chardos and his team.
Since 1973, Montgomery has lived in the Rosemont subdivision, where she raised five girls and two boys. For the past two years, Montgomery and her youngest son, Eric, 39, dealt with a broken water heater by boiling water on their stove.
Volunteers worked for three days, replacing the water heater, gutting Eric’s bedroom walls to install insulation, repairing the roof, replacing shingles, and unclogging plumbing.
Montgomery referred to the Home Works volunteers as “beautiful, wonderful people.”
Her youngest daughter, Yulanda Adams of Charleston, praised the loving spirit of the volunteers.
“We’re very appreciative,” Adams said. “It’s a blessing, with all the things going on with the economy.”
Bishop Guglielmone shook hands and visited with Montgomery and her family and with Chardos and his volunteers. The bishop also assisted the teens as they loaded Chardos’ trailer and participated in prayers at the end of the work day.
Bishop Guglielmone then joined the volunteers for an evening meal at their temporary home at Porter-Gaud school in Charleston.
“They make a difference in the life of this family,” he said. “I also commend the adults. They’re giving a lot of their time and effort and expertise, not only in their work, but in their teaching.”
Anne Marie Velky, a teen volunteer from Our Lady of Peace Church in North Augusta, said the bishop’s visit “shows that we’re doing something really big. For the bishop to recognize it as something, maybe we’ll be able to get more done.”
Home Works has several one-day blitzes planned, plus a two-week mission to Zorritos, Peru, in August.
Adult volunteers included Judy Pezanowski, who took time off from her job at Stella Maris Church on Sullivan’s Island to organize meals for the group; and Bill Shoemaker, Jonathon Cleary, Richard DeMille, and the Rev. Brent Melton of Christ Episcopal Church in Elizabeth City, which also sent five teenage volunteers.
Several Charleston residents and businesses donated meals, including Advent Lutheran Church, Charleston Bay Gourmet, Tommy Condon’s and Bocci’s restaurants, and the Knights of Columbus Council 704.