Hezekiah's Hands

Hezekiah's Hands is a mission of area churches that provides home repairs to needy individuals throughout Bradford County, Pennsylvania. Applications are processed through the Area Agency on Aging.

Each summer, teams of volunteers from participating churches spend one week working on repairs that make it posiible for people to continue living in their homes. Volunteers have built wheelchair ramps, painted, repaired drywall and floors, cleaned kitchens, and done minor plumbing repairs. Additional jobs are completed as needed through the year.

There is no cost to the home owners for labor or supplies. The group holds fund raisers throughout the year to fund the repairs.  Donations are also accepted and can be made through First Presbyterian Church, designated "For Hezekiah's Hands".

The following article appeared in the Daily Review June 14, 2010.

Hezekiah's Hands: home-repair with love

BY NANCY SHARER (FOR THE daily REVIEW – Towanda, PA)
Published: June 14, 2010

Help.

The word can be a desperate cry. Or it can be a caring response.

When it is a cry, even from far away, many people among us respond. They stop what they're doing, pack their bags and make long trips to help those in need. They give medical aid, build buildings and do more.

The Review is running an intermittent series on local residents who have done just that. These people, volunteers, have gone on work trips and offered "helping hands in far-off lands."

These are their stories.

BY NANCY SHARER (FOR THE REVIEW)

King Hezekiah would be pleased.

The ancient Israeli leader was a builder. A godly man, he re-did the doors in Jerusalem's temple, fixed the city's walls, dug water tunnels, got rid of bad things and built good.

Today, a Bradford County organization is following his example. Hezekiah's Hands is a volunteer group that does home repairs for those in need. Members go to homes and fix what's broken, build what's missing, spruce up and paint and replace what could be and should be brighter and newer and better, so people can have a comfortable, happier life.

And along the way, maybe they show something godly to those they help. Love.

It's "a Christian, faith-based home-repair ministry," member Jim Crawford of Herrickville explains of Hezekiah's Hands.

Locally, the organization has a big event coming up. June 21-25 is Mission Week, when members travel around Bradford County tackling multiple projects. Work actually goes on throughout the year, but Mission Week is the big push.

And in recent years, HH has made annual journeys into the Deep South to help hurricane victims. Need respects no boundaries.

Jim knows a few things about carpentry and home repairs. A retired Northeast High School teacher, he now does handyman work on his own, besides volunteering with HH. ("Home Work Done?" ask words written on his truck.)

"I've been blessed with a lot of skills," Jim says. "I try to use them in whatever way."

A man with deep feelings about his HH service, Jim tells the story the organization that lends a hand.

Here

In 2003, some people from the Towanda Presbyterian Church took a missions trip to Mexico. It opened their eyes to something: People right in this area needed the same kind of help they'd gone far away to give. So they began a local volunteer home-repair group.

The next year, member Brian Pifer asked Jim, from the Rome Presbyterian Church, to help with a roof in Milltown. Jim got involved with the HH board of directors and made a suggestion: Why not open up to volunteers from all over?

They did. They became "Hezekiah's Hands" and now include about 85 volunteers.

"We are an association of persons," Jim says. "We're all working for the common good."

Most of the workers are with a church, but you don't have to be to join. "All they have to do is have a belief in God and desire to help others," Jim states. Just show up, act morally and safely, roll up your sleeves. And go at it.

HH has volunteers skilled in things like electrical, plumbing and heating work. But what if you don't know a wrench from a hammer? No problem. They'll teach you.

Volunteers divide into smaller crews, or teams, for different sites. "We're always looking for skilled people to become crew chiefs," Jim adds. He himself is a team leader.

"I get a satisfaction in seeing others being able to help others," he comments.

So what, specifically, can HH do in a home?

About everything.

Workers can replace windows; work on floors, roofs, porches, steps; insulate floors; do electrical and plumbing jobs; build ramps. Each year, "we probably do usually 6 to 10 ramps," Jim says.

"We do a lot of trailer repair," he notes.

This summer, he's remodeling a bathroom. HH is even drilling a well.

"We do just whatever needs to be done."

HH went to one home to fix the front door. Workers ended up spending almost a week painting, replacing furniture and counters, and throwing out unneeded stuff. They're going back later to replace windows.

"My home looks like a million bucks!" the woman there declared.

It "gave them a sense of pride," Jim says.

Standing at a kitchen counter in his own house, he shows pictures on a board labeled, "Our Biggest Project." Photo by photo, it documents HH building a mini-apartment onto a house for a wheelchair-bound woman.

The shots show cement-block footers, a man on a roof peak, a ladder by a wall. Lumber piled up. A table saw - the watch-your-fingers, tough-guy kind.

In one, a man walks beside the house, a worker on a ladder behind him and a board lying across sawhorses. Sunshine gleams off a bare wall, as if reaching out to the home and the people inside, grasping their hands with hope, and love… Someone's love.

HH aims to "show the love we have for others by serving others," Jim says.

It gets names of those needing help from agencies, churches, individuals and so on. Many are elderly or on fixed incomes.

The board meets monthly at the Towanda Presbyterian Church, HH's sponsor, host and treasurer. It stores supplies in Jim Kintner's barn on Mercur Hill.

HH plans to work on 50 houses this year. Although it is not officially a 501c organization, donations made through the church are tax-deductible, Jim explains.

HH does not charge those it helps. That's where donations come in. And donations can be either money or materials - HH can take all kinds of good-condition, used things to install in homes: refrigerators, washing machines, bathtubs, toilets, vanities, doors, cabinets, windows, carpets, exhaust fans - everything but the kitchen sink.

Oh wait, they CAN use the kitchen sink!

Jim helps HH because "I believe I'm called to."

"I have a great deal of joy and peace and satisfaction, and love to do what I'm doing," he reflects. "I just love helping others.'

Louisiana and Mississippi

In 2005, the nation watched as Hurricane Katrina and later storms chewed up the Deep South. City blocks were leveled. People died.

Hezekiah's Hands wondered: Can we help?

One thing led to another; a member of Towanda Presbyterian Church had a son who was in the service, who was dating a girl, who was from Hattiesburg, Miss. The town had been hit by the storm. HH decided to go down.

"So that's how we got there to start with," Jim says.

Actually, the volunteers found Hattiesburg doing well in early 2006 when they arrived. Someone suggested they go on to Pearlington. "Things were pretty bad there," Jim says.

Just a few miles of bayous and marshes separate Pearlington from the ocean. With an elevation of only 6 to 10 feet, the town ended up under 11 to 15 feet of ocean water during Katrina.

"Imagine the force it takes to drive water that high five miles inland!" Jim says. "People don't know destruction until they see what happens."

After the storm, the damage was, well, imagine throwing everything from a house into a washing machine to tumble around. Then let it sit and rot and grow mildew. Then let in some wild animals (remember, this is alligator country).

Jim predicts that "50 years later there will still be visible effects from Hurricane Katrina." Trees are snapped off. Sometimes you'll see a boat in a tree.

Afterward, many residents moved away, but not all. "And some of them are still living in temporary housing," Jim reports.

Many can't finish repairs because of insurance hang-ups. Mortgages keep them trapped in homes.

So HH did what it could.

And it made another long-distance trip the next year, and the next, and the next.

It always goes in March, acting on requests from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. "Wherever they need help, that's where we go," Jim says. They usually stay at PDA camps or churches on the way, and at church facilities while there. Jim hauls along many of their tools.

He himself has made six trips to U.S. disaster sites with HH: four to Mississippi, one to Iowa after flooding there, and just this March, to Lake Charles, La.

Eighteen HH volunteers went to Lake Charles. "It's quite a collection of people," Jim says: He saw volunteers with backgrounds in pharmacy, forestry, the postal service, the government. A former draftsman. A person from P&G, another from Penelec. A college student who gave up his spring break to go.

Jim shows a photo of them, in blue HH T-shirts: Larry Kacyon, Dan Williams, Lew and Lala Lalonde, Bret Pifer (the student), Lyle Harding, Perry Moore, Lee Lord ("When we go on mission trips we bring the Lord with us!" Jim quips), Ed Krauss, Chuck and Seth Perkins, Doug and Nancy Pratt, Claire Allen, Cliff and Sandy Swick, Jim Lacek and himself.

"They were pretty well pummeled down there," Jim says of Lake Charles. Hurricanes Ike and Rita were the culprits.

Even now, years later, all is not back to normal. "There is still visible damage," Jim says.

Many houses look OK from the outside, Jim explains, but are not sound inside. And occasionally, volunteers had to re-fix someone else's poor repairs.

Lots of houses in Lake Charles are built on piers. Still, the storm surge got them.

So helpers divided into teams and trekked to four homes. "And did some extensive work on them," Jim reports. The United Methodist Committee on Relief scheduled their work, and Jim supervised his team - teaching, working, checking. They got stuff done.

They had to stop work on one house when they found termites. Still, they finished the other three.

"I think everyone feels a sense of helping others," Jim says of the trip. He's never heard anyone say, "I'll never do that again!"

He feels the same. "It's obviously rewarding because I keep going back," he says.

"I believe I am fulfilling what I am called to do."

Next year, they'll do it all again. They'll grab their saws, their ladders, their Hezekiah's Hands ball caps, and drive off to help someone - across the country - and just down the road.

King Hezekiah would be proud. To make a donation

For more information on Hezekiah's Hands, contact Nancy Hughey at (570) 265-3767, or to donate materials contact Jim Kintner at 265-6838.

To donate money, make checks payable to: Towanda Presbyterian Church, in care of Nancy Hughey, 318 State St., Towanda, PA 18848. Put "Hezekiah's Hands" in the memo line.

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