JOHNS ISLAND—For 15 years, St. Joseph Church on Wallenberg Boulevard in Charleston has been the staging area for adults and young people whose goal is to improve lives through the use of hammer, nails and plenty of hard work in the hot Lowcountry sun.
This summer was no different. St. Joseph provided housing and meals for 85 volunteers with Home Works who took part in a home repair blitz on Johns Island from July 19-24.
Home Works, based in Irmo, was founded in 1996 by executive director Hank Chardos, a member of St. Peter Church in Columbia. The nonprofit is dedicated to repairing the homes of people in need and helping young people develop a commitment to service,
High school students work in teams with adult volunteers for several days to repair homes around the Southeast and in South America.
Johns Island was one of the first communities the organization served, and it is a popular summer destination for church youth groups who want to do outreach work. Chardos said this year’s project on the island drew interfaith groups from the Carolinas and Georgia.
Cathy Clarey, a member of St. Joseph, has coordinated breakfast and supper for the volunteers for the past 15 years. They eat lunch at their work sites.
“Hank called me and said he needed somebody to line up meals, and I’ve been doing it every year since,” she said. “I raised nine children so big meals don’t bother me.”
She said the parish was chosen for housing because its gymnasium has locker rooms and showers for both men and women, enough floor space to provide a place to sleep, a commercial kitchen and a community of dedicated volunteers. Boys and girls sleep in separate parts of the gym, and adult chaperones stay with them.
Clarey said other Catholic organizations and faiths from Charleston help with the effort, including Methodist, Baptist and Episcopal churches.
This year Home Works volunteers assisted nine homeowners on Johns Island with projects ranging from new roofs to duct work.
Columbia resident Angel Allen attended for the fourth year, and coordinated 15 student volunteers from Cardinal Newman School in Columbia.
High temperatures were a challenge, but Allen said the workers and homeowners remained enthusiastic during the week.
“The hard work is good because many times, these kids have never done work like this before,” she said. “It makes them feel like they’re making a real contribution. They also really bond with each other, and the fellowship is one of the things that brings them back year after year.”
Elizabeth Davis, 16, a rising junior at Cardinal Newman, said this was her second trip to Johns Island. She said Home Works has taught her new skills such as painting and how to put up siding.
“I like volunteering with Home Works because I know I’m taking my time to help someone build their house up and feel better about themselves,” Davis said. “It just feels really good to help people.”