Soldiers join local volunteers to repair Columbia homes

brantin@thestate.comDecember 28, 2012 

There’s something about a good cause that tends to attract a crowd.

As they have for years, volunteers with Home Works made their way into the Columbia community for their post-Christmas repair blitz. But as a long line of veteran workers began the annual labor of love Thursday morning, they were joined by many newcomers and a group of Fort Jackson soldiers.

Thursday marked the beginning of the four-day blitz for the more than 100 youth and adults who joined the faith-based group to repair the homes of seven elderly or low-income families.

“It’s great to see people give up their time to help someone,” Preston Busbee of Columbia said as he directed a crew of volunteers at the home of John and Eartha Burns. The Clemson University senior has volunteered with Home Works seven years and his passion for rebuilding homes was fueled by the outpouring of support he witnessed Thursday.

“There are a lot of first-timers,” Busbee said of the more than 30 volunteers who turned out to help at that location.

The repairs to the Burnses’ home are among the more detailed taking place this week. Volunteers are replacing the roof, repairing trim, installing storm windows and making other upgrades that include a new handrail leading to the mailbox.

It’s one of two homes where Fort Jackson soldiers are lending a hand, and longtime Home Works volunteer and site leader Darryl Williams said their presence is significant for the younger workers.

“I think it’s very healthy for them (to work alongside them),” Williams said. “The soldiers are good, hard workers and they are accustomed to piling in and getting things done.”

Barzelle Manning of Ridgeway was leading a group of young volunteers as they cleaned windows and got them ready to be installed.

Manning said her husband, Ernest, learned about Home Works through a newspaper advertisement and when he decided to volunteer she decided to join him.

“I said I’m in,” Manning said. “This is all about giving. We were looking for something to do during the holidays and we found it. This is the season of giving.”

Crayton Middle School student Caitlin Steele is volunteering for the first time and said the benefits of her time were quickly evident.

“It’s just seeing people be so happy about getting their home repaired,” she said.

At other locations this week, volunteers are installing rear handrails, entrance ramps, storm windows, repairing bathrooms and making other improvements.

Home Works is supported through community and corporate donations. This week’s project is being funded in part through Richland County Discretionary Funds and through a grant from The Nord Family Foundation.

Home Works was founded in 1996. Since them, more than 30,000 youth and adult volunteers have repaired more than 1,800 homes at no cost to the homeowners.

“It’s all about the homeowners, helping them and seeing the smiles on their faces,” Busbee said.

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