By KATHY SCHMUGGE
COLUMBIA — Mary Prescott lives in the Beaumont community of Columbia with her 5-year-old granddaughter. Her house is in desperate need of repair. The plumbing doesn’t work; painting needs to be done; windows are in bad condition, but she cannot afford to fix any of it.
“I would get on my knees every night and ask the Lord to help me get the things done that need to be done. I had a heavy heart as I woke up to see nothing changed. Because Mr. Hank called and said he would help, I don’t have a heavy heart no more,” said Prescott, who added with emotion, “Words just can’t describe how I feel.”
Hank Chardos, director of Home Works of Columbia, wants to help more people like Mary by launching a community campaign bringing compassion to action. He believes if small organizations, churches and local government work together, combining resources, much more can be done in an efficient manner. He cited several situations, such as Columbia’s Operation Paint Brush, where unified endeavors have had great success.
To facilitate this effort of “getting to know one another and working together,” Mayor Bob Coble and Home Works of South Carolina conducted a tour of Columbia on March 12, accompanied by church and community leaders who toured two of the 30 homes that will be repaired during “Christmas in April,” an annual one-day house repair blitz organized by Home Works. Mary Prescott and Annabel Smith, the owners of the houses that were toured, joined the group for lunch at First Baptist Church in Columbia after the trolley ride to their residences.
“We want to preserve these homes and what Home Works is doing is what we want the city to do,” said Coble, who believes Home Works “fills a definite need” in the community. “I pledge to work towards forming a partnership with Home Works and the city.”
This type of partnership is exactly the goal of the tour “From Compassion to Action,” that attempted to “link the various resources in the community to not only make repairs to homes but more importantly, bring hope to homeowners.” Chardos gave an example where a woman was evicted from her home because of its substandard condition and had to pay to live in a nursing home. Fortunately Home Works found out about this tragic situation, and the homeowner will be moving back soon to a renovated home, something she had almost lost hope of ever doing.
The participants of the tour were given a little written assignment designed to inform the group of the resources and various initiatives being done in Columbia. After going over the answers, Chardos turned and asked the group to share their response to the question, “How can we get from Compassion to Action.”
Debbie Bower of Senior Resources feels that acknowledging the problem is the first step. It is too easy, according to Bower, for people to look the other way because if they do acknowledge the need, they may feel obligated to do something about it.
Chardos applauded all those who have responded to the call to service offering whatever skills or materials they can. He said the youth have been especially open to the call. He estimates that more than 1,000 teens from the area will join him during the April Blitz, an image of youth that contradicts the negative stereotypes often associated with them.
“I have seen the youngsters in action and the beautiful relationships formed all in a Christian spirit,” said Bill Manley, parishioner at St. Peter Church, who is a faithful volunteer.
Camille Bradford Hugg, from WLTX, suggested that the volunteers share their experience with others to promote more action. Chardos immediately asked Amber Caron, a junior at the University of South Carolina, to talk to the group about her experience with Home Works.
” I have been a volunteer for four or five years. My whole family is involved, and when I look back, I see the positive impact it has had on my life,” said Caron. She spoke of a time when she built a set of stairs by herself at age 14. “There was tears and sweat in that job, and I remember almost quitting, but when it was done, I was so proud. It did so much for my self-worth — that I could do such a thing for someone else.”
Someone asked what Home Works needed in manpower. Chardos said they could always use more adults and skilled workers such as plumbers, carpenters and electricians. He would like a small ratio of adult and children because he feels that “the lower ratio, the more eye and heart of the teen, you will have.”
Jennifer Epting, board member of Home Works, added some remarks before the closing prayer, given by Wendell Estep, pastor of First Baptist Church.
Epting read a short passage from a book, “Hope gives life its flavor. As long as hope lives, so do we, but when hope dies, a piece of the soul dies with it.” She added her own words, “Let us look at tomorrow for our actions, so we can move from compassion. The one gift we can give to the homeowner is hope.”