By Roger McKinney
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Volunteers with Hearts & Hammers of Southwest Missouri on Saturday spread out to 16 homes in Joplin, Duenweg and Carthage for its annual work day.
“We’ve got 16 people we’re going to be a blessing to,” said Hearts & Hammers board President John Clayton as the volunteers gathered at Landreth Park.
He said Hearts & Hammers is a Christian group that does remodeling and repair work at homes of those in need. It organized in the Joplin area in 2003. Since it started, the group has made improvements to more than 200 homes. He said there were probably around 100 volunteers on Saturday.
“Let’s go to work,” Clayton said as he sent the volunteers to their job sites.
Betty Saltenberger, 84, was among the volunteers on Saturday. The other volunteers refer to her as “Aunt Betty.”
“I’ve been to every one since they started here in 2003,” she said. “I wouldn’t miss them.”
Saltenberger was assigned to a house at 115 N. Patterson Ave., where she promptly befriended the owner, Peggy Brust. Brust joined Saltenberger in removing years of accumulated leaves and debris that had piled against the fence on the north side of her property.
“I can’t sit in the house and do nothing,” Brust said.
Brust, 75, said she has plans to plant a vegetable garden there in the spring.
Other volunteers were building a new front porch and placing handrails on her back porch. She said she is recovering from a stroke.
“Stairs are my nemesis,” she said.
Asked about the friendship they had developed, Saltenberger and Brust said they were roughly the same age.
“We grew up in the survival era,” Saltenberger said of the Great Depression.
Brust said she also has had help recently from Economic Security Corp. in replacing her siding.
“I think it’s great,” Brust said of the help from Hearts & Hammers. “They’ve been super. I’m going to have almost a new house by the time it’s done.”
John Clayton’s son, Scott Clayton, director of Habitat for Humanity, stopped by to see Brust and Saltenberger at work.
“I think I’m going to sign up for Habitat,” Saltenberger told him.
“We’d love to have you, Betty,” Clayton said.
At 1316 Kansas Ave., volunteers were painting the house of Bob Beck. Beck, 75, said he doesn’t feel comfortable climbing a ladder to paint.
“I just really appreciate this,” he said. “It’s been about 13 years since it’s been painted. I just can’t thank them enough.”
Among those at Beck’s house were Chizuru Hedin, who brought her daughters, Izabella, 10, and Lauren, 8.
Asked why they wanted to participate, Lauren spoke up.
“We didn’t have anything else to do,” she said.
Hedin said she’s glad her daughter didn’t say, “Mommy made us.”
“We just heard about it at church and we thought this was a good chance to help someone,” Hedin said.
Hedin and her family attend St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, as does Ashley Qualls, who also was painting.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun and it feels good to help somebody,” Qualls said.
John Clayton, board president, said Hearts & Hammers didn’t do a work day last year because everyone was involved with recovery efforts after the May 2011 tornado.