In a matter of a several hours, volunteers from Hearts and Hammers can give a home a much- needed face lift. Last spring, a sea of volunteers in bright orange Hearts and Hammers T-shirts arrived one morning at a home in St. Paul to give it a fresh coat of paint, do carpentry work, lawn trimming, and add pavers and planted shrubs. By the time the crew dispersed in the late afternoon, the site looked like an entirely different property— their work had instilled a renewed sense of vibrancy into the home.
Hearts and Hammers –Twin Cities Chapter is the second chapter of this organization. The first chapter in Dallas, Texas was started by Peace Corps volunteer Bob Walker in 1987 when he saw a need to help citizens, including seniors and people with disabilities, who could not afford or perform home improvement services. When Walker relocated to the Twin Cities, the second chapter of Hearts and Hammers began in 1997.
The organization maintains its mission to partner with local businesses, professional associations, churches and alumni clubs to perform rehab work for Twin Cities homes in need. Eric Stendahl, owner of Sage Homes in Plymouth, is the chair of the Hearts and Hammers board through 2017.
“This all works through individuals and companies,” Stendahl says. “Often times, companies like Sage Homes come together to provide materials, to provide labor and to sponsor fundraising events so we can raise money to go buy the things we need and pay our staff.”
Along with the support and collaboration Hearts and Hammers receives from local companies, Sage Homes employees also provide carpentry repairs to houses prior to event days when volunteers show up to do the exterior painting and yardwork.
Mike Hutson, executive director for Hearts and Hammers, finds homeowners who can benefit from the outreach program. “Our mission is to help assist people that can’t physically do it themselves nor do they have the financial resources to do so,” Hutson says. “We typically work with neighborhood groups to identify deserving homeowners.”
Hutson wears many hats in his multifaceted role, but his favorite part is meeting people through Hearts and Hammers, whether company employees, volunteers in the community or the homeowners themselves.
“We’ve been fortunate here in recent years to serve a number of military veterans,” Hutson says. “When you start talking to people who served in World War II or in Vietnam, the stories you hear, they’re just tremendously interesting. And to be able to provide the kind of work that we do to folks that you really take a liking to, it’s obviously rewarding. To be able to make a difference in their lives is something that’s hard to put a price tag on.”
Hutson and Stendahl agree that the design of the Hearts and Hammers program provides a unique and rewarding combination of team building projects, making connections in the community and giving homeowners a renewed sense of pride when the work is completed. They acknowledge the work contributed by the entire dedicated Hearts and Hammers board in order to ensure the operation continues from year to year.
Their continued focus is spreading the news about the program. “Our homeowners are located all over the metro and we are working hard to get the word out in every community. Our biggest challenge is getting homeowner applications because people don't believe that we are free,” Stendahl says.
The Hearts and Hammers board is excited about three scheduled campaign dates tackling homes in need of repair across the Twin Cities this year. The event days will be on the following Saturdays: June 3, July 15 and September 23. Those interested in volunteering for the 2017 campaign can sign up as a team or individual under the “Volunteers” tab at the website here .