Nancy Kiefer realized the two pans she had stacked were hopelessly stuck together and thought she might never get them apart. So she called Jim Calder.
Calder volunteers as a handyman at the Shepherd’s Center. Tool bag in hand, he showed up at 88-year-old Kiefer’s door and took care of business.
“I just got some ice out of her refrigerator and put it in the top pot, and then I put the bottom one on the stove ... I figured that the bottom one would expand from the heat and the other one would contract from the ice cubes, and that’s what happened,” Calder said.
He’s a welcoming, warm, approachable person. A person who ... just has the warmth of somebody who gives his time to charity.
Sherry Felkner, Dick’s wife
About a year ago, Calder, 82, became the main handyman at Shepherd’s Center, a nonprofit that offers programs and services to older adults. “The whole idea ... is to keep seniors independent in their homes for as long as possible and keep them socially engaged,” said Marcia Scheideman, former executive director.
And experts agree that giving back pays off for volunteers, too, by giving them a better sense of purpose. In fact, older volunteers are on the rise as Americans live longer and are healthier. In 2013, 24 percent of Americans over 65, that’s 10.6 million people, did some type of volunteer work.
Calder was taking over for Art Nelson, who began volunteering for the handyman program when he was 70 and continued for 18 years. In the beginning, Nelson was sending handymen to do two to four projects a week for seniors who needed help with loose doorknobs, leaky faucets or busted hinges.
“Oh, they loved it,” Nelson said of their clientele, “They kept coming back for more and more and more. We had a lot of returning customers.”
Over the years, churches in Charlotte saw what the Shepherd’s Center was doing and started handyman services for their own communities. “Gradually down toward the end I only had two or three handymen and got into fewer and fewer job (requests),” Nelson said.
Now, the jobs Calder does are small – a sticky drawer here, a broken lock there. Sometimes it’s as simple as changing a lightbulb, but it helps seniors who can’t do it themselves and don’t have money to hire a handyman.
When Calder encounters things he can’t fix, like plumbing problems, he recommends a plumber he worked with for years in the homebuilding business.
A friend of Calder’s, Dick Felkner, remembers helping Calder with one of his first handyman jobs for the Shepherd’s Center. The front steps to an elderly couple’s house lacked a railing. With age-related mobility problems, this posed an extra safety concern.
They bought treated lumber, measured and cut the wood. They dug holes with a post-hole digger, filled them with concrete they’d mixed, set the posts and nailed on the handrail.
“It was a simple matter,” Felkner said. “It wasn’t complicated.”
Calder says volunteering as a handyman for the Shepherd’s Center is a natural fit. “I have time to do it,” he said, “and it’s kind of rewarding when you can see that you were able to help somebody with a problem.”
Capwell: 704-358-6194; Twitter: @jessicacapwell
To volunteer or get help
For details about the Shepherd’s Center, visit www.shepherdscharlotte.org. To volunteer or get handyman help, call 704-365-1995.