Hammer-wielding volunteers head for Houston

COLUMBIA—Nearly two months have passed since historic rainfall and catastrophic flooding from Hurricane Harvey hit the area around Houston, leaving thousands of families with severely damaged homes, limited financial resources and seemingly nowhere to turn.

Thanks to volunteers from South Carolina, some of them will receive help soon.

Hank Chardos, executive director of Birthright of Columbia and founder of Home Works of America, has spearheaded an endeavor called Together in Faith, an ecumenical effort gathering resources and volunteer workers to head to Texas to make much-needed repairs.

The group will be in Texas Nov. 26 through Dec. 19 to repair houses for four Liberty residents, including three full-roof replacements.

Chardos is well-known for his years with Home Works, a non-profit that helps people who need home repair but can’t afford it. He said when he saw the devastation left behind by Harvey, he felt the need to do something for people in Texas.

He traveled to the Houston area in mid-October and went to Liberty, a small town northeast of the city. Many volunteer groups that have come to the area have been hosted by First Baptist Church of Liberty, and it was there that Chardos met workers from the Virginia Baptist Convention, who had been in town more than a month.

“They had a database of people who had contacted them saying they needed help, and I learned that one thing they weren’t able to do was fix roofs,” Chardos said. “Roofs are one thing that Together in Faith can definitely do, and it’s vitally important because if a roof leaks the rest of the house is going to be unlivable and end up getting destroyed.”

Back in Columbia, Chardos hosted a meeting on Oct. 24 for interested people from different churches. So far, about a dozen people from Catholic and Episcopal groups have signed up to make the trip to Texas.

Chardos said he also hopes to connect with members of a Catholic parish in Liberty to see if they can mobilize workers on their end to help with the effort.

“I want to let volunteers know that it makes no difference if you ever climbed up a ladder or don’t know one end of a hammer from another — I can teach them to help put on a roof,” Chardos said. “When everyone is up there working, you won’t be able to tell if someone is Catholic or Episcopal or Methodist. You’ll just see people of faith working together to help someone.”

Some parishes, including Our Lady of Grace Church in Lancaster, are making financial donations. Others in the Midlands are raising money and gathering supplies for the group, including thousands of bags of toiletries and hygiene items put together by sixth-graders at St. Joseph School in Columbia, a University of South Carolina sorority, and the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina.

Anyone interested in volunteering or helping with Together in Faith can call 803-543-8144 or email Chardos at houstonrelief@birthrightofco lumbia.org.

Provided: Above, Cliff Dickerson stands on his roof in Liberty, Texas. It was badly damaged by Hurricane Harvey and will be repaired by volunteers from South Carolina.