“This home does not belong to me, it belongs to the community,” Donna Hirst said of her house at 123 Bridge Street in Spring City, which was ravaged by a fire in March of 2011 only to be rebuilt by volunteers from the community.
Hirst was not home at the time of the fire, but received a phone call from her daughter informing her of the tragedy. She did arrive before the fire had been subdued and remembers the scene.
“It was an inferno,” she said, “there were giant flames shooting out of the house.”
The fire took almost everything she owned, leaving only parts of her kitchen and laundry room untouched by the flames. Her family and friends spent a few weeks clearing out her home after the fire. Hirst did not have insurance on her home, so she was not sure what would happen next, but she found out about a Christian non-profit called Good Works from her Pastor, Jack Mason at Grace Assembly of God in Spring City. Good Works, based in Coatesville, exists to help people in situations like hers.
“Good Works (serves) low-income homeowners in Chester County. Our vision is to eliminate substandard housing in the areas we now serve – Coatesville, West Chester and Phoenixville. On the second Saturday of each month, volunteers meet at 8:30 a.m. at the Phoenixville Good Works shed, located on the grounds of the Valley Forge Christian College, to work for the day on homes in the community in need of repair,” explained Good Works Volunteer Coordinator Cathy Gilbert in an email to the Phoenix Reporter & Item. “Good Works’ workday staff, who are also volunteers, organize the work, plan for the needed materials, and accompany each group to the homes needing work. Applicants who have been approved by our agency receive repair services on their homes free of charge.”
In Hirst’s case this equated to eighteen months of reconstruction – the rebuilding of her home before her very eyes. Good Works solicited the help of many groups – including corporate help form Pfizer, Vanguard, Siemens, and Liquid Hub - as well as local churches including the Methodist Churches of Malvern and Paoli, Hirst’s own congregation at Grace Assembly of God and others in the community.
“I did not find one face, one heart, that wasn’t filled with love and peace. Everyone was so happy to help, they were amazing,” Hirst said. “I’ll say it again - my home belongs to the community because the community put it back together.”
Good Works not only handled the outlined reconstruction efforts, stated Hirst, they also went above and beyond the scope of what they originally said they would be doing.
“Do you see these floors,” she said, pointing to her hardwood living room floor, “They were not in the original plans.”
She said that while she did not get to see and meet all of those who helped – there we a lot of people involved that never stepped foot in her house –and she often thinks about them.
“I don’t know how many people had a hand in helping, but God does, and I just pray to God that he helps all those who helped me – it really stirs my heart.”
In January of 2013 she was handed the key to return to her home. She had her first night back in a bed in her home on March 28, 2013. Just this past October, she held an open house at for those who helped. She said everyone who came enjoyed the evening and the spread of food.
“I told them ’You are welcome to stop here anytime you are in the area’,” she said. “They have become a part of me that will be in my heart until I die. To try and say thank you – I cannot put it into words – that is why I tell them that this home will always be here for them.”
Visit Good Works online at http://www.goodworksinc.org/