Heaven-sent handymen: Knights of Columbus help with home repairs

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Ever since Ray McDonald had open-heart surgery, he hasn’t been able to do the things he used to, such as fixing odds and ends around the house. So when his wife, Rose, saw a note in the bulletin for the Handy Knights ministry, she gave them a call.  

Since then, Bob Colella, from the Knights at Church of the Nativity in Burke, has visited them several times, repairing a leaky faucet, putting in a screen door, even helping Rose with her iPad and Smart TV.

“We were so blessed when Bob came into our lives,” said Rose. “We call him our ‘Handy Angel.’ ”

Knights at both Nativity and St. Timothy Church in Chantilly independently started ministries aiding the needy and elderly with minor home repairs. “No kitchen remodeling,” joked Colella. “Just little things done around the house.”

Joan Fram needed part of the deck fixed so that her dog wouldn’t escape as she tended to her 92-year-old homebound father, Jack Casazza. Since then, the Knights have returned to install storm doors that can be propped open easily. “It was amazing how much they helped,” said Casazza, who has been a Nativity parishioner for decades.

The St. Timothy Knights tackled water-damaged, rotting wood in a bay window. Five or six men spent a Saturday morning taking out the wood, sealing the space so no more water would come in, then caulking and painting it. They intend to return soon to work on the damaged interior drywall.

The Knights set aside part of their yearly budget for the ministry, though Paul Whalen, who helped begin the ministry at St. Timothy, hopes to focus on projects that require more manpower than funds. The Nativity Handy Knights accept donations, but do not require any payment.

Though most of the men don’t consider themselves experts, each has construction or home repair experience. Colella said his years as a U.S. Air Force pilot gave him quick problem-solving abilities. St. Timothy Grand Knight Rupert Harmon, a real estate agent, once owned a handyman business. Whalen has been involved with Habitat for Humanity for many years.

“The need for housing has a special place for me, which is why I initiated this. The guys have jumped on board,” said Whalen.

Once at a house, they take time to see what else can be fixed. “We showed up to move some furniture, (because this man) had broken his back on a bad bicycle fall, and his wife wanted to put her dining room back together after he no longer needed the hospital bed,” said Colella.

“It took maybe 15 minutes. (Then we saw) she had license plates sitting there from the DMV, and said, ‘Hey do you want us to put that on? The front door’s not working right, you want us to fix that?’ ”

Especially with elderly parishioners, the Knights look around to see if lights are working, if there are fall hazards or places where handrails should be installed.

Other parish ministries have joined in to make the large community seem more like an extended family. Last year, the church’s youths spent a day of Bible camp gardening and cleaning homes where the Handy Knights had worked.

“You can vote every day for the kind of parish you want to live in,” said Colella. “So this is just a lot of fun.”

For Whalen, the ministry makes his parish a more familiar place.

“The gratifying part is always when you meet people and connect with them at some level. Especially when they’re affiliated with their parish, you notice them from time to time instead of being a face in the crowd,” he said. “It's gratifying to use the gifts that we’ve got from God.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016

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