If volunteerism is the cornerstone of Joseph’s Hammer, then Jason Durand was truly a rock for the handiwork ministry.
"Jason was a wonderful volunteer who helped a lot of people," said his father-in-law, Bob DeSeyn, noting that Durand toiled on some 27 projects after Joseph’s Hammer was launched in 2004. "He built a number of ramps and porches, installed windows, just fixed things that were broken."
Durand died Nov. 8, 2010, from cancer at age 45. However, out of that tragedy came some a touching gesture that will benefit Joseph’s Hammer while honoring Durand’s commitment to it. According to DeSeyn, the ministry’s director, a $200 donation was recently made to Joseph’s Hammer in Durand’s memory by a friend of the family.
The act of generosity will help support an important service that offers repairs at no charge for Steuben County-area homeowners who can’t physically and/or financially manage the work themselves. Many live in mobile homes and are hampered by age, illness and/or injury.
DeSeyn said more than 260 projects have been completed through Joseph’s Hammer. They have ranged from painting and caulking, to installation of ramps and railings, to work on lights, sinks, porches, blinds, doors, dead bolts and insulation.
Joseph’s Hammer began out of St. Gabriel Parish in Hammondsport. The initiative has since expanded to many other parts of Steuben County with several religious denominations getting on board — as well as a number of people who don’t go to church anywhere.
"The motivation to help those in need with their hands and talents comes from the heart and does not seem to be tied to religion," DeSeyn remarked.
Approximately 40 people in all are currently involved as regular laborers. DeSeyn said he believes that the Joseph’s Hammer concept can work anywhere in the diocese, based on the notion that every community is capable of garnering and organizing volunteers.
"We have a group that started in Addison as part of the Episcopal Church. They have done several projects so far," DeSeyn said, adding that Joseph’s Hammer recently performed an extensive project based on a referral from St. James Episcopal Church in Hammondsport. That effort involved the massive renovation of a trailer, as well as donations of clothing, for a mother and her four children who were victims of an abuse situation.
Projects come to Joseph’s Hammer through word of mouth and referrals from social-service agencies. Organizers rely on donations of cash and supplies as well as grant funding, and work in conjunction with such organizations as Bishop Sheen Ecumenical Housing Foundation Inc. and Steuben County Office for the Aging. DeSeyn observed that these associations with numerous agencies help speed up the process when residents need to break through red tape.
"We not only fix things that are broken, but we do have the ability to use our local clout," he said.
DeSeyn has served from the beginning as director of Joseph’s Hammer, which was conceived by Deacon Dan Williams while he was serving as St. Gabriel’s pastoral minister. DeSeyn, a parishioner of St. Gabriel, noted that he and his late son-in-law collaborated on many projects.
In fact, Durand’s daughter Maggie, now 6, often tagged along with her dad and grandpa "which is very kind of soothing," DeSeyn said, explaining that residents are generally uncomfortable about their poverty and infirmity but Maggie would lighten the mood. She has even helped out financially.
"I think her first contribution was seven cents," DeSeyn remarked.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Those wishing to start a Joseph’s Hammer-type ministry in their area, or donate cash and/or supplies, are invited to contact Bob DeSeyn at 607-569-2845 or email@example.com, or St. Gabriel Church at 607-569-3501.Tags: Faith in Action, Steuben County News