Home Works: Assignments Students (and Adults) Actually Want to Do

Most teenagers likely prefer not having homework. These students, however, actually volunteered to do it during the summer — and they liked it! 

Many even said they’d do it again, particularly if the assignment was for Home Works, a nonprofit, Christ-centered construction ministry based in Columbia, that provides free home repairs for elderly, disabled, and veteran homeowners in need. 

Adult volunteer Walt Laiewski passes a hammer to Rachel Knoblauch while repairing a soffit at a Home Works site in Greenville.

“Most of our work is done by middle school, high school and college-age students to whom we help teach basic home repair and construction skills,” said Joe Huggins, executive director of Home Works. “It’s all done while sharing the gospel with the homeowners, our students, and all of the other volunteers involved.”

But it’s not just the students getting in on the action. Those volunteering also include adult church groups, deacons’ ministries, and men’s organizations, noted Huggins, who is a deacon, children’s Sunday school teacher, and men’s discipleship leader at First Baptist Church of Columbia.

“At each home, our vision for helping homeowners is basically trying to keep them warm, safe and dry,” he said. “We do a lot of roofing work. We do a lot of weatherizing and helping homeowners lower their power bills. We do a lot of floor repairs inside and on porches.

“Where there’s water in a home, there’s usually a leak; and where there’s a leak, there’s rot,” he added. “So what we try to do is make these homes safe and navigable for people to walk from room to room. We also do a lot of fall prevention work inside on bathrooms and bedrooms, and on the entrances to homes.” 

One of the teams from Ebenezer Baptist ministers to homeowner Abraham McKenzie of Lake City by painting his home.

Huggins, who earlier served in the Navy for eight years, had worked in commercial construction for 15 years. He learned from a friend three years ago that Home Works was looking for a new director.

“This was all the Lord’s direction and His guidance — His taking my life and uprooting me from where I was comfortable and what I had known, and taking me to the unknown,” he said.

At first, Huggins “politely said no,” but then he began to feel God “tugging at my heart,” he recalled. “And it has since been the biggest blessing in my life.”

The most rewarding part, he said, is being able to share the gospel with homeowners and seeing people being the hands and feet of Jesus. 

Patrick Tierney (left) and Thomas Leong, from a Greenville-area church, repair a window sill for a Greenville homeowner.

“Knowing that someone out there loves them — whether it be a homeowner or a volunteer — and that we’re all doing this in the Spirit of Christ, it makes a difference,” he explained. “It warms my heart to see people see Jesus through the hands and feet of the army of volunteers who come alongside us from different volunteer groups, churches and organizations.”

His own church, Columbia First, is one of those supporters. The church’s student ministry has worked with Home Works several times, and the deacons recently participated in a workday, repairing a home together. Church members also often lend a hand on some projects.

This summer, Home Works has hosted several week-long sessions across the state. Interdenominational volunteers have worked in Greenville, Columbia, Charleston, Johns Island, Aiken and Lake City. 

So far, about 500 students have been involved. Among those sending groups are Southside, Cornerstone, and Ebenezer Baptist churches in Florence, and First, Shandon, and Greenlawn Baptist churches in Columbia. East Cooper Baptist in Charleston recently held a “Love on Charleston Day,” repairing several homes in the area.

Joe Huggins, left, director of Home Works, discusses renovations needed with Lance Kinard, a student at Charleston Southern University.

The biggest need for volunteers, though, is in the Pee Dee area, which has been ravaged by numerous storms during the past five or six years, Huggins said. “There are a lot of homes that have fallen through the cracks, so to speak,” he noted. “Response crews can only do so much,” Huggins said, praising the good work done by South Carolina Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers led by Randy Creamer.

What about stories from those whom Home Works has helped? Huggins said he has a million of them, but mostly he hears from homeowners: “I have prayed for years that someone would come and fix my home.” 

Lance Kinard, a junior at Charleston Southern University and member of Elko Baptist Church, is serving as a student intern this summer with Home Works. “I love seeing the smiles 

on the kids’ faces when they learn something new,” he said. “Whether they get to use a power tool for the first time to build a deck or replace flooring, they’re like, ‘Wow, I did that!’”

A homeowner in Lake City for whom Home Works volunteers repaired a front porch walked outside and said, “Oh, my goodness, I haven’t used my porch in 20 years,” Kinard recalled. 

“That not only put a smile on my face, but the kids’ faces, too,” he said.

Associate Pastor Nathan Neighbors, front, works on a hot roof in Lake City, assisted by Natalie McCabe and Jacob Floyd, members of a youth team from Ebenezer Baptist Church.

The student ministry of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Florence worked with Home Works in Lake City in July. Hosted by First Baptist Church, Lake City, the work crew of 55 repaired six homes, which involved replacing one roof, painting five homes and doing various projects. 

“The team at Home Works is awesome, and they poured into our students and helped teach them new construction skills and also how to share the love of Jesus with these homeowners,” said Nathan Neighbors, associate pastor to students at Ebenezer. “I was very impressed with their passion for Christ and their desire to tell the Good News to the community.

“It was much more than a construction mission trip,” Neighbors added. “They [Home Works] gave us the opportunity to become the hands and feet of Jesus.”

Home Works is an answered prayer, Huggins nodded. “It’s heartwarming to become an answered prayer for our homeowners, and for these homeowners to be able to see the church being the hands and feet of Jesus coming and answering their prayers.” 

For more information about Home Works, contact Huggins at (803) 781-4536.