Community perspective: The story of a Hammer

John Weaver puts down shingles on the roof of Tabitha Hammer’s home. (Photo provided)

A contributed perspectives piece by Earl Martin

Over a month ago, Harvey Yoder phoned our Carpenters Guild to see if we might help a woman patch the roof of her leaky house. 

The Guild has been a gathering of folks in the Harrisonburg area who for years have been volunteering to help with home repairs for persons needing a hand. Often doing their work on Fridays, anywhere from three to 20 carpenters, plumbers, electricians, handy-hands, generalists and well-wishers would find themselves tearing out and rebuilding walls for a couple, building a wheel-chair ramp for someone who needed it or rebuilding the White House (now Vine and Fig) and their front porch. Not every month saw a project, but there were at least six per year over the past 20 years, so likely well over 100 projects.  

The Guild deliberately did not keep track of the projects. So there is no record.  No, the intent was to lend a hand without bureaucracy, without troublesome “vetting” of each project, without attention or fanfare. Just an opportunity for some hammer-swingin’ folks to work together for a day!

So when the call came to help out the woman with her leaky roof came, it seemed like the perfect project for the Guild. “This kind of project is the very reason the Guild was formed.”  Where is this project?  Well, it’s out beyond Elkton, out in the beautiful, hilly boonies. And who is this woman?  When we pulled in one evening over a month ago to assess the project, we were met by a fast-talking, fast-chuckling firecracker of a woman named Tabitha Hammer. Tabitha explained that her house had been built by her grandfather and built well. Alas, the roof has been leaking for years, forcing her son to live elsewhere rather than in his wet bedroom.  

We climbed her ladder, homemade with an assemblage of boards, onto her low-pitched roof. (Less than two-twelve slope.)  But Tabitha had arranged a variety of plastic sheeting here and there over the roof to prevent some of the rain from falling into her kitchen. Tabitha also had purchased 26 bundles of three-tab shingles and a half dozen sheets of three-quarter inch plywood to repair her roof.  But she had no way of getting those remedies installed.

We told her we would see if we could help. Back home, we contacted members of the Guild for their counsel on what to do. Tim and others advised installing Ice and Water Shield over the whole roof because of the low slope.  We contacted John Weaver about helping to install the shingles.  He immediately said, “I’ll do it!” Wow, what a spontaneous, beautiful commitment!

We set a date for the Guild to show up to remove the two (or three or four) layers of shingles on the roof.  Probably bad timing, given summer vacations and people’s earlier commitments, but Wick Fary showed up, and soon we were attacking the old shingles, only to discover large areas of the roof where the one by six sheathing boards were totally rotted out.  Well, that’s what the ¾ inch plywood was for!  So lots of patching. We would never get this roof ready for shingles. But then a newbie, Andrew Troyer — Ed’s nephew — showed up, and Wick phoned his son who also showed up, as did Miguel — bless their hearts. So by 5 p.m., three-fourths of the roof was stripped, patched and covered in Ice and Water Shield. Tabitha had provided a generous lunch.

Four days later, we took another stab at the project, this time with added boost from Ben and Russ and, most delightfully, the help of Chuck Kisling, a friend of Tabitha’s and a true man of the fields and the hills. Chuck worked harder than any of us. When we had finished stripping, patching, and Ice Shielding the rest of the roof, and replacing most of the fascia, Chuck decided he would do a little extra, up to the peak.

The next day, John Weaver showed up to get an early start before the rain. By noon, he had that nearly ten-square roof shingled and ridge-capped. A miracle! With Chuck by his side, doing whatever he could.

That evening Chuck texted, naming with special thanks each of the folks who had come to help. He also said, “I hope we also keep in touch an if u have anything come up … an u think u may need a hand text me call me an I’ll do what I can the best I can for u or whoever it may be.”

A few days later, he texted again, “jus letting ya know other nite when we had rain not 1 drop of rain made it inside the house that was a pretty nice sign of relief finally.  THANK TO ALL WHO MADE IT POSSIBLE FOR A INSIDE FLOOR TO BE DRY FOR THE 1ST TIME IN 25 YEARS …”

Then, a big box from Amazon arrived at our door containing a large Gift Basket with specialty snack foods and a note enclosed which I took for all who helped out with the roof, indeed, all who have given a hand with the Guild over the past, many years: “A Gift for You. Thank you for being a generous soul and a beautiful spirit in a world that could use a million more people just like you.  Thank you so much for everything.  You’re the best and you’re appreciated more than you know. From Tabitha Hammer.”

Earl Martin lives in Park View and has done renovation carpentry for the past twenty-five years.  Anyone who might occasionally like to volunteer with the Carpenters Guild can contact Earl at [email protected]

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