The Birth of Home Works
By Hank Chardos, Executive Director and Founder
What we learn from our children…
In the late 80′s, my oldest daughter, Jennifer accompanied a friend on a summer mission trip sponsored by the Methodist Church called Salkehatchie. After her second summer returning from the weeklong trip, Jennifer’s first words were, “You’ve go to do this Dad!” The next summer I went with Jennifer and repaired homes for a week in the Santee, SC, area. I returned from that experience with two distinct emotional feelings. One was amazement at the exuberance and compassion the teens displayed working in the hot summer sun. The other feeling was disappointment that the Catholic Church in South Carolina did not offer teens this opportunity.
The next four summers included trips with some of my children, Jennifer, John and Catherine repairing homes under the auspices of Our Lady of Mercy Outreach located on Johns Island, south of Charleston, South Carolina. The experiences with my children, such as: replacing siding, installing handicap ramps, repairing roofs, and building an outhouse prompted the idea of involving not only my children but other teens. As the saying goes, “and the rest is history”.
Midlands N.A.I.L.S., the name later changed to Home Works of South Carolina, was founded for the express purpose of enabling teens, with the assistance of adults, to repair homes of the elderly and the disadvantaged. Talks with Catholic youth groups in Columbia and Aiken prompted the first summer work session during 1996 in the Johns Island area involving more than 110 teens and adults! I can still remember coordinating housing for teens and adults with Sister Mary Joseph from Our Lady of Mercy Outreach. Initially a house was identified to accommodate around 10-15 teens and adults. The response by interested teens and adults, however, quickly necessitated more housing. Sister Mary Joseph remarked, “What are you doing, these are going to be too many people.” The response reflected the willingness of teens and adults to be of service to others. The dilemma of housing manifested another miracle. Through the generosity of St. Joseph Catholic Church, in Charleston, its pastor, Father Gabe Smith, and support of its parishioners, especially, Al Katko, Bill and Marie Woodard and Cathy Cleary, the Family Life Center became a, “home away from home”.
It became apparent that Home Works was an opportunity for volunteers from all walks of faith, not just Catholics. Teens would invite their friends while varying church groups wanted to participate. What started as a Catholic initiative evolved into an exciting ecumenical effort. Prayer is a common bond that is shared by all religions. Prayer is incorporated in all aspects of the day; it is the source of energy and the fiber of all that we do.
The Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina, through the leadership of Father James Lyon and Bishop Dorsey Henderson, joined in partnership with Home Works in 1998. Other church groups have likewise “joined” forces, not only in prayer but also in action, allowing individuals to share their faith with one another, to work together, and to pray together.
Throughout the year…
The efforts of Home Works have expanded beyond week long summer sessions to also include one-day blitzes and are held throughout the year. In 2000 the first trip to Zorritos, Peru to repair homes working with local churches occurred. The program became firm in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina and was able to respond to Hurricane Katrina by having work sessions in December 2005 and March 2006 in Covington, Louisiana.
Many miracle days…
What has transpired over the years and continues today is a series of miracles, big and small. Miracle, after miracle, after miracle, with hammers and nails and paint brushes, teens and adults. Not only are homes repaired, but more importantly, hope is restored to the elderly and disadvantaged homeowners, and participants, old and young, grow in faith.
What we learn from our children.