The Church of the Resurrection's Christmas In October (CIO) Ministry is focused on rehabilitating the houses of low-income homeowners in the Kansas City area at no cost to the homeowners. In only three years, Resurrection has become a major force in helping elderly, disabled and veteran homeowners remain in their homes.
This year, Resurrection plans to focus on a smaller area around the Wendell Phillips Neighborhood around 25th and Paseo Boulevard in Kansas City, Missouri. This year’s Christmas in October serving opportunity will be October 12th.
We talked with Resurrection’s Christmas in October Program Leader Larry Hedenkamp about this year’s event.
How did you get involved in Christmas in October?
When I was asked to do this I was originally hesitant. One Sunday morning I was reading a newspaper article about a woman who was basically trying to save a neighborhood on the East Side. She represented her homes association and the article detailed all the struggles she had to eliminate crime and vacant lots. I held up the article to my wife and said, "This is the woman we need to be supporting," somebody like her. Our church is big enough and there is a lot of energy here and this is the type of effort that we should be focusing on. We can help this woman save her community. From that came my effort to volunteer to step up and help. Messages from many directions telling me that this is something I should do.
Can volunteers of all skills sign up?
What's really good about this effort is I have had families who show up to volunteer and they will bring their 15-year-old son or daughter and the house captain will put them in an area that is safe. We will teach them how to paint and change a lock on a door. It's fun to see them come out as a family knowing that not only are they giving but they are teaching their kids life skills that are important. They are learning how to pick up some small hand tools and make a difference in the world they live in. You have that level of skills and learning all the way up to the highly skilled person who volunteers.
What's one of your favorite memories from last year?
Last year I had a man who was a very skilled carpenter but he hadn't done carpentry work in 20 years, but he liked to tinker. There was a window that didn't work and he spent the entire day rebuilding the window. He put it back together and it functioned beautifully. He was so proud of it. That window happened to be the window this woman who was in a wheelchair would open and close to get fresh air. It was really important for the window to work for her and she was really happy with the work he had done. He felt quite accomplished because it had been a long time since he had done those types of skills. This was really good for everyone.
What are you looking for in a house captain?
The main thing we do look for is someone who can manage people. You don't have to have a construction background. We like to have two house captains on a house. One of those would be great to have a housing background. The other could be a great organizer of information. We are going to put 20 to 30 people with you who want to be lined out for the day. The house captain's responsibility is to be the liaison between the homeowner and the volunteers to make sure they match them up with the scope of the work and it gets accomplished in a safe and orderly manner. That's an important piece of the puzzle. Additionally we are also looking at a new level of management that we are trying to put in place - like a superintendent. We are going to try and do 30 houses. With that we want to have a designated person who has an oversight on five or six houses. If I was a superintendent, I would be managing 12 house captains and six projects. Keep the scope in a realistic fashion so it doesn't get too far out of hand. There is so much to be done with few resources.
What long lasting impact does Christmas in October have?
We try to put in insulation on these houses which has a long-term impact financially, so we get very positive feedback. This year we took in almost 30 applications for homes. One of the people we will be helping is a lady who is 97 years old. She stays in this house and has someone who helps her. This is what we do. We try to make these houses functional for people like her. She's got some electrical problems and some drainage issues and other things she just can't afford to do. That's our goal is to transform a community where people can live dignified, quality lives.
To learn more information about signing up as a house captain or volunteering, go to www.cor.org/christmasinoctober.