Based on the need that existed, Bob DeSeyn knew from the get-go that Joseph’s Hammer could become a highly valued ministry.
“My phone was ringing all the time,” he recalled.
Joseph’s Hammer, founded by St. Gabriel’s Parish in Hammondsport, helps area homeowners with handiwork they cannot afford and/or perform on their own. Since being launched in early 2004, the ministry has completed approximately 90 projects, thanks to a pool of some 50 active volunteers as well as numerous donations of cash and supplies.
The group received a big boost when it was awarded a $5,000 grant in late January from the Sisters of St. Joseph Ministry Foundation. DeSeyn, who serves as director of Joseph’s Hammer, said the money will be used to “help expand the Joseph’s Hammer concept,” explaining that his organization will sponsor Southern Tier groups that wish to start similar efforts.¬†
“It’s worked here very well. If it was a good idea here, obviously it would be in other places,” DeSeyn remarked.
One potential agency for adopting Joseph’s Hammer principles is Faith in Action of Hornell. That organization assists frail, elderly and/or disabled adults so that they may continue living independently.
“Certainly it’s a great group. We’re certainly looking into it,” Dick Russell, Faith in Action’s executive director, said in regard to working with Joseph’s Hammer. He noted that the Hammondsport group has received handiwork requests in his area, “so they could use more help out this way. And this could really align well with what we do.”
In addition to Hornell, DeSeyn said Joseph’s Hammer has performed projects in such communities as Avoca, Savona, Corning, Addison and Cameron. Many people helped by the ministry reside in mobile homes; are aging; and/or are coping with illness and injury.
“There’s definitely the need,” Russell said. “There’s really nobody else out there that’s doing it at no cost, as far as materials being paid for. A lot of people need the help who can’t pay for the materials, let alone the labor.”
Joseph’s Hammer grew out of an idea by Dan Williams, pastoral minister at St. Gabriel’s, who is due to be ordained a permanent deacon of the Rochester Diocese in 2007. The ministry acquires its projects through word of mouth as well as referrals from social-service agencies. Projects have included painting and caulking, installation of ramps and railings, and repair/replacement of light fixtures, molding, kitchen sinks, porches, venetian blinds, telephone jacks, doors, dead bolts and insulation.
In December 2005, Joseph’s Hammer was given Steuben County Office for the Aging’s Community Service Award. The ministry’s value also was noted by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester upon issuance of its recent $5,000 gift: “Congratulations and God bless your continued good work, bringing beauty, comfort and safety to your neighbors,” stated Sister Diane Dennie in a letter on behalf of the foundation’s board.
Though begun by St. Gabriel’s, Joseph’s Hammer has benefitted from strong participation by Hammondsport churches representing several denominations. DeSeyn also noted that such organizations as Bishop Sheen Ecumenical Housing Foundation Inc. and Steuben County Office for the Aging have made contributions, as have many individuals.
“We had a fellow whose daughter got married and, in lieu of gifts, money was sent to Joseph’s Hammer, which was great,” DeSeyn said.
DeSeyn stated that with a good sense of organization, it’s quite possible to get a ministry such as Joseph’s Hammer going.
“That’s really all it takes. Intuitively, I know there are always people willing to help their neighbors,” he said. “The whole notion of people helping people is not unique to geography.”
And the rewards are many, he pointed out.
“I think it’s good for our soul. Everybody who does it realizes that sort of thing is good for us,” DeSeyn said. “In terms of the people we help, all you’ve got to do is see the look in their eyes, and that’s enough.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Those wishing to start a Joseph’s Hammer-type ministry in their area are invited to contact Bob DeSeyn at 607/569-2845 or email@example.com. The ministry also welcomes donations of cash and supplies.