The 300 or so volunteers who fanned out all over Summit County on Saturday helping repair the homes and rebuild the lives of qualified low-income elderly, disabled and military veteran homeowners may not be as acquainted as I am with the Edgar A. Guest poem I’d Rather See A Sermon.
They need not be. On this day, they were the poem.
I’d rather see a sermon
than hear one any day;
I’d rather one should walk with me
than merely tell the way.
The eye’s a better pupil
and more willing than the ear…
For to see good put in action
is what everybody needs.
And good put into action is exactly what 11 homeowners received from these self-proclaimed “weekend warriors” — hammers, drills, shovels, paintbrushes in hand — from Rebuilding Together Summit County/Greater Cuyahoga Valley.
I had a chance to look in on the action at the homes belonging to Bernice Piercy in Green and James and Elizabeth Jeffries in Akron.
I doubt the smiles on their faces will disappear any ime soon. Here’s why.
Help for disabled widow
The 86-year-old Bernice was widowed in 1969 the year after she and her husband, Eugene, purchased what was to be their dream home and a week before his oldest daughter got married. Eugene, who was building an apartment on Akron’s Zahn Drive, was electrocuted when a steel beam he was handling fell on a live wire. Three years later, she became disabled when she fell.
“We didn’t have much money to keep up with everything that needed done. So it just didn’t get done,” daughter Sandy Leopold said matter-of-factly.
That all changed Saturday when volunteers from the city of Green, residents and staff from Spoonhower Orthodontics of Green and Summa Health System adopted the Piercy house.
To the delight of her family, the volunteers banged out a massive laundry list of repairs: power-washing and painting her back deck, repairing the front door stoop and adding a railing, painting the garage door, cleaning up the yard and landscaping (complete with flower beds), replacing the basement screen door and a set of sliding glass doors, replacing aging kitchen and bathroom linoleum with a faux-wood floor and repairing a kitchen cabinet, to say nothing of the electrical.
“The biggest thing was fixing the septic tank,’’ Leopold said. “The aeration blades were bad.”
Leopold said she has no idea what this work would have cost, but she knows neither she nor her mother had the funds to do it.
“Mom talks to God a lot and praises God every night for these volunteers,” Leopold said.
“This is wonderful,” said Bernice, who squirreled away in a corner to avoid the much-welcome, albeit busy traffic in her home.
Helping to oversee the work were Sarah Haring from the city of Green, resident/volunteer Rick Jacobson and Dan McBryer, a staff person with Rebuilding Together. The Spoonhower Orthodontics team was represented in part by Alisha Wright and Joanne McLaughlin, who were new to floor installation but quick studies, as was Bernice’s great-grandson, P.J. Stasiewski.
“We’re doing this because the community has supported us and this is a way to give back to that community,” Joanne noted.
Work frees woman
Elizabeth and James Jeffries also were chest-out proud of what was going on at their Akron home, which was adopted by four churches: First Congregational Church of Tallmadge, First Church of God of Tallmadge, United Presbyterian Church of Cuyahoga Falls and United Church of Macedonia.
The herculean chores — handled by 44 volunteers — were coordinated by Dee West, Sandy Farabee and Shawn Arnold.
The work was just as important to the family as it was to those who had signed on to fulfill their dream.
Elizabeth, also 86, is battling multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, and uses a wheelchair and a walker.
Thanks to folks like Lynn Johnson — a friend of First Congregational — Elizabeth is going to have the freedom to eat with the rest of her family in the kitchen. Because of the way the kitchen was configured with a big cabinet jutting out onto the floor, she had trouble getting in there. Consequently, her bedroom became her domain: She slept, ate and watched TV there.
The more handicapped-accessible kitchen includes new countertops, refinished cupboards and a new sink.
The Jeffries also were treated to a massive outdoor cleanup, major-league landscaping with new flower beds, pavers around the driveway and a state-of-the-art retaining wall complete with steel beams and timbers to replace the one that was crumbling, supervised by Scott Kemph. Other work at the house included a new front door and some windows that were replaced because of lead problems, a new indoor attic ladder, inside painting and installation of handrails throughout the house and safety bars in the bathroom.
Johnson’s wife, Kathy, helped with the brick and pavers outside. Volunteer Gary Marlow served as paint crew leader.
“This really is a dream come true, a true blessing,” was how Elizabeth summed up this hallelujah moment.
“I get so teary-eyed when I look around and see all of these people I’ve never met before doing all of these nice things for us,” she said. “I truly am in God’s favor.”
“Something as simple as that — to be able to sit at the kitchen table again,” an emotional Sandy Farabee said, drinking in the scope of their work being done. “I tell you, we are the ones who are blessed to be a part of this.”
Elizabeth is a retired surgical technician with 30 years of service at Summa. Her husband is an Air Force veteran, a diabetic and a prostate cancer survivor. He formerly worked for Western Union and is also retired from Summa, where he worked in environmental services.
“I feel like more than a king today. My wife and I are so elated,” he said.
The couple’s oldest daughter, Rhonda Claridy, moved in August from Columbus to care for her parents.
“They cared for me when I was young. Now it’s my time to care for them,” she said.
Director thanks volunteers
Paul Holm, executive director of Rebuilding Together Summit County/Greater Cuyahoga Valley, said 12 organizations participated in the remodel project.
“The volunteers have done a great job organizing and preparing for our projects,” Holm said. “The enthusiasm of our old and new groups has been very uplifting and I am sure that everyone will walk away today blessed and grateful for the help of a neighbor.
“We have such a diverse group of people being served and a diverse group of people serving. From engineers to everyday people who just have some time, a willing and caring heart, and someone to share it with. Thanks to all of our participating groups and sponsors for their hard work and belief in Rebuilding Together.
“The Home Builders Association Serving Summit & Portage Counties and the Akron Area Board of Realtors are working together this year,” Holm continued. “Not only have they joined forces to share an office complex on White Pond Drive, they also have joined together to tackle two houses on Noble Avenue.”
New under the tent of participants are Environmental Design Group, Spoonhower Orthodontics and Summa.
For more information on Rebuilding Together and how you can help fund their urgently important sermons, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 330-773-4100, but give them a week or so to rest.