By SHEILA OJENDYK
GREENVILLE — A teen volunteer told Hank Chardos his mother would be surprised — he worked harder at the Home Works project than he ever did at home.
Home Works, founded by Chardos in 1996, teams volunteer teens with adult supervisors to do home repair for the elderly poor. The group came to Greenville the week of July 11 to 17 to repair five homes.
Chardos and Don Ballish previewed five houses last spring after referral from Senior Action. They assessed the repair needs of each house and set priorities.
Each evening, adult team leaders meet with their youth team members to review the day’s progress. Priorities may be adjusted if the teens feel the need exists and adult team leaders concur.
Chardos and Ballish were working on Clarence Blassingame’s home on Saturday, July 17. Repair needs were extensive. The roof leaked causing extensive water damage. The plumbing leaked, several windows were sealed shut — the house has no air conditioning — and windows were broken.
The highest priority for the home was fixing the roof. It also needs new siding but it is still functional and does not need to be replaced immediately. The teens replaced the roof on the front of the house as weather permitted, installed a new ceiling in the bathroom, replaced the subfloor, laid new vinyl floor and installed tile board around the bathtub.
They carefully removed the broken windowpanes, installed new glass and recaulked the windows. Habitat for Humanity donated several storm windows with screens, which the teens installed over the front room windows. The group built new screen doors for the front and back doors, installed a new ceiling in the kitchen, replaced several interior walls and hung new cabinets. They painted inside and out as needed.
Chardos refers repeatedly to the miracles — which nobody anticipates — that occur in Home Works. A plumber stepped forward just when he was needed after serendipitously hearing an announcement at his Episcopal church.
Businesses are generous to Home Works. Waste Industries donated use of a dumpster, and took it to the county landfill at the end of the project. This saved team members one day of time eliminating the need for repeated trips to the landfill. Greenville Mall donated 40 gallons of paint, Home Depot donated kitchen cabinets from a floor display, and Morningstar Storage donated unclaimed kitchen furniture. Morningstar also provides storage for the tools and equipment between projects. Southeastern Freight transports tools, equipment and building supplies, and Alltel Communications donated the use of cell phones for the team leaders.
Teens learn more than home repair skills in a Home Works project. They learn about people. Chardos mixes teens from different parishes and faiths on each team so they can meet and befriend people from other areas, cultures and faiths. Joining the local volunteers was a group of teens and youth ministers from Fayetteville, N.C.
Teen volunteers are encouraged to get to know the homeowners. Each teen at Blassingame’s home spent one-on-one time getting to know him and learned to appreciate a man they might have otherwise never met.
Teens are encouraged to take ownership of their projects and make decisions under their team leader’s guidance. Chardos cited the decision-making process involved in hanging the kitchen cabinets in Blassingame’s home. The teens decided where to hang the cabinets and how high they should be. They also decided the home needed new light fixtures, purchased the new fixtures and installed them.
The teens pooled their money and bought Blassingame housewarming gifts. They had been with him for a week and saw what he needed as well what would be special for him. Blassingame expressed his deep appreciation to the teens and said he is “very proud of the work the kids are doing.”
At the end of a Home Works project, each teen takes something from the home — besides memories — as a souvenir to remember their week of Christian service. Many take nails or pieces of board. One young man took the old weights that fell out of a window because they intrigued him so much.
Christian Brother Leonard A. “Tony” Quinn came from his home parish of St. John in North Charleston to join the Greenville group. Brother Quinn said the teens were literally living the Gospel passages in which Jesus directed his disciples to travel with little more than the clothes on their backs and to depend upon the good will of the people they met for food and shelter. Volunteers from different churches and families provide the meals for Home Works teams, and various churches house them in their gyms. The Greenville teams stayed at Buncombe Street United Methodist Church, which Chardos describes as a “good facility with lots of showers.”
Home Works can be described as a working retreat. Brother Quinn explained, “We are called to be Jesus to each other. … There’s more to the sacraments than going to church.”
The teens begin each morning with a prayer service. The Catholic teens say the rosary every night after dinner, and all teens join in prayer before going to bed. The teams finish their projects with a house blessing to celebrate their work and gather on Saturday night for a dinner of thanksgiving.
Chardos hopes to recruit more adult volunteers next year for this worthwhile ministry of service. He says of Home Works, “To me it’s not work. It’s joy and fulfillment.”