It all started as a temporary ministry of the North Industry Christian Church. The goal was to help repair local homes during week-long work sessions held in 1995 and 1998.
The Hammer and Nails nonprofit organization emerged from those efforts, based on the strong belief that faith calls Christians to help their neighbors. They accomplish this by furnishing four kinds of help, summed up by the acronym PUSH.
To qualify for assistance, homeowners must live in the home requiring service, be current on mortgage payments, and be veterans, elderly, disabled, or low-to-moderate income. Homeowners who can lend a hand with the repairs are required to do so. Most of the work, however, is accomplished by calling upon a roster of dedicated volunteers with a wide range of skills and expertise. They’ve helped more than 1,700 Stark County homeowners to date, and there’s a steady waiting list of those in need. Services are provided free of charge.
The founding director, Darlene Leghart, retired in August 2017. Ray Fete, formerly a fund development leader at CommQuest, was named the new executive director. As Ray puts it, the mission is simple: “We like to fix homes, and we like to install wheelchair ramps.”
According to Ray, the average Stark County home is around 80 years old. As those homes age, and as their owners age, the need for assistance continues to increase. Wheelchair ramps are especially important: they generally are not covered by insurance plans, but they are instrumental to ensuring residents can safely age in place. Due to funding constraints, the organization is limited in the number of ramps it can install. The average ramp costs around $10,000. Used or donated ramps are refurbished and installed as they become available.
At the time Ray took the helm, the organization was functioning out of four old, run-down buildings in an unsafe area. In 2018, local funders (the Deuble, Hoover, Paul and Carol David, Sisters of Charity, Stark Community, and Timken foundations) came together to fund the purchase and renovation of a suitable, safe, accessible location in northwest Canton that offers ample parking and storage space for work vehicles and equipment.
Hammer and Nails has provided critical assistance for so many of our neighbors: it’s tempting to call it one of Stark County’s best-kept secrets. But that’s what Ray would like to change. He’s working hard to promote the organization and its efforts, so homeowners and potential funders alike will know about everything Hammer and Nails has to offer, and to ensure the support and sustainability Hammer and Nails will need to continue helping our Stark County neighbors for years to come.
To learn more or to get involved, we encourage you to visit hammerandnails.org