Home Works: Help with a hammer

CHARLESTON—Water stains on the ceiling of her small home remind Susan Tyler every day of the peace Home Works has given her.

The Christian organization is based in Irmo and repairs and rebuilds homes for those in need. They came last fall and fixed Tyler’s roof, so waterlogged it sagged in places.

Now the group is back — this time to build a ramp and close in a small room off the back of the house.

Lewis Moore, who attends Nativity Church, oversees the small group of student volunteers. He said Home Works often returns to the same house for follow up projects because they are in such bad shape.

Tyler’s house is one of dozens that the organization is fixing during their summer blitz across 10 cities.

They also have a cadre of students and adults from the Diocese of Charleston working in Mobile, Ala., repairing homes damaged by a rash of tornadoes that struck in March.

Hank Chardos, director of Home Works, said he received a call from Bishop Robert J. Baker, formerly of Charleston, asking for help.

About 45 people from three parishes — Blessed Sacrament in Charleston, Our Lady of the Lake in Chapin and Our Lady of Peace in North Augusta — plus other individuals responded to the request. Chardos said they are putting on new roofs and doing other repairs.

Most of the homes the group accepts are those of elderly residents who can’t do the work themselves, either physically or financially.

Tyler is one of those. Moving slowly behind her rolling walker, she sits heavily in a favorite chair. She gestures to the large kitchen table that dominates the room, and the photo of her six children. Scattered around the room are more images — grandchildren and greatgrands. There are also many awards for her Gospel singing and service to her church choir. Tyler has nothing but praise for Home Works and the gifts they’ve given her.

“They’re doin’ a wonderful job — it really needed some work,” she said. “I thank the Lord for what they did.”

Like the people they help, however, Home Works is feeling the impact of a weak global economy.

Since 2007, the number of homes the organization is able to take on has dropped from 191 to 147 in 2011.

Volunteers, ages 13 and up, who take up tools and a positive attitude of help and hope, have also declined.

Bill Shoemaker, the volunteer coordinator in Charleston, said it’s all tied to funds. He noted that churches — his is Stella Maris on Sullivan’s Island — provide much in the way of stewardship by sending church groups around the southeast and to Peru as volunteers with Home Works. But less money means fewer chances for those trips.

Still, they do what they can. Moore directs his small group of teens at Tyler’s house as they apply paint and tease each other.

The students, who have come from various locales around the state, have also closed off the underside of the house to small animals and built solid walls and a roof on the back room, where Tyler stores her refrigerator and hot water heater.

The debris brought into the back yard by construction and flooding — not including mosquitoes and fiddler crabs — will also be cleaned out.

“It’s not professional construction, but it’s a lot better than what it was,” Moore said.