A request for help to repair a run-down mobile home in east Lincoln County has given rise to a group known as The Carpenter's Crew, a sub-ministry of the East Lincoln Christian Ministry in Denver.
The call came in the spring of 2008. A single woman was living with her four children in a mobile home with a leaking roof and a single kerosene heater for warmth.
The entire family slept in the living room with the kerosene heater, while sheets of plastic had replaced missing windows. There was no workable shower or bathtub.
Could ELCM help with a repair?
Jim Haskett, 64, and and Donna Haskett, 61, who are volunteers with the organization, went to investigate. What they found was not simply a leaking roof, but a residence in complete disrepair, "Ready to be hauled off," said Donna.
Reporting back to the ELCM board, they suggested the residence was so badly in need of repair that it would be better to replace it completely.
However, funds were not available, so a call for help went out to local churches and a local utility.
A church group repaired the heating system in the home, and the utility's Global Project provided needed funds and volunteers to help with repairs. Furniture was donated by ELCM.
When another call for help with repairs to a mobile home with a leaking roof came in the fall of that year, volunteer Prissy Sherrill, 69, went out to evaluate. She determined the residence was also virtually beyond repair.
It didn't take long before local churches organized volunteers who could help make critical repairs for folks in need in East Lincoln County. First on the list of possible volunteers was Prissy's husband, Rudy, 74. Other volunteers with the necessary skills were enlisted. A name was needed.
"Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" was taken, so they looked to the Bible for guidance. Mark 6:3 provided the answer: "... such mighty works are performed by His hands! Is this not The Carpenter...?"
So Carpenter's Crew was chosen.
Then a mission statement was crafted. "The mission of The Carpenter's Crew is to help make home repairs for residents of East Lincoln County who live in substandard housing with no available resources to help themselves and have been recommended and approved through the screening process of ELCM."
It wasn't long before more calls for help came to the newly formed group. After a January snowstorm, the crew was asked to help a local resident whose pipes had frozen. Rudy went to the residence to investigate. What he found was considerably worse than he expected.
The woman living in the 100-year-old family home was disabled, with a heart condition and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. Because her pipes had frozen, she had been carrying water to the home from a well. Conditions inside the home were deplorable.
The floor was so rotted that the stove, which had only one working burner, was in danger of falling through. There was no telephone, and the only heat came from a small kerosene heater in the bedroom. A blanket had been hung in the bedroom doorway to keep the heat in. The back porch was rotted and would need to be torn down.
When he began work on the frozen pipes, Rudy found that much of the plumbing needed to be replaced. The crew also made repairs in the kitchen and shored up the sagging foundation.
Since its formation, The Carpenter's Crew has completed repairs on four homes and renovated an off-site storage building to be used by ELCM. The makeup of the crew for any particular project varies, including men and women from area churches, as well as business and civic organizations.
According to Rudy Sherrill, the informal foreman, only some volunteers have actual construction experience, and many are involved in local businesses. What they all have in common is a desire to serve those in need.
Whenever possible, materials needed for home repairs are donated by local businesses, and recycled and salvaged materials have been used as well. Other expenses have been underwritten by East Lincoln Christian Ministry.
As for the future, the crew's brochure says it best: "I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." (Jeremiah 29:11)