Great Days of Service repairs homes while building community

Faith-based Great Days of Service gathered people from all walks of life to help homeowners who need their assistance.

Volunteers from various backgrounds gathered at Plymouth Park United Methodist Church in Irving to organize and plan out home repair projects for homeowners who are elderly and in need. Through Great Days of Service, these volunteers help assist people in maintaining their property around the Irving area.

“This is the 14th year for Great Days of Service, which is an interfaith effort to work together to help homeowners who are elderly and/or in need in Irving to maintain their properties,” Joan La Barr, Communications Chair for Great Days of Service, said. “We work with Irving City Code Enforcement. We work with churches and places of worship. We work with individuals who can suggest homes.”

Great Days of Service has been around for more than a decade, having its roots begin between various churches eventually including other faiths, such as Islam.

“It dates back almost 15 years,” La Barr said. “Great Days of Service began earlier than that in Sherman, Texas. It then became adopted by other communities around that wanted to follow the model. At that point, it was interchurch cooperation, but here in Irving with our diversity has expanded into interfaith. We’ve got Christians and the Islamic Center as participants. We work together.”

One particular homeowner, Marcia Oseka, showed the utmost gratitude towards the repairs to her house.

“They’re building me a handrail,” Oseka said. “They had a ton of trees removed yesterday, trees that were falling on my house. They fell on my son’s car; they broke his windshield on his convertible. They’ve done so much; I don’t know where to begin. Anything I needed done, they are doing.”

Repairs range from repainting the inside of a house to simple garden work that certain homeowners are just incapable of being able to do on their own.

“We don’t do roofs, but we do some significant carpentry and painting, repairs on porches and walls,” La Barr said. “We’ve got some people with some serious skills that can really be helpful, and we do interior work, too.”

Luckily for anyone wanting to lend a helping hand, experience isn’t necessary as there are many different tasks to be done that don’t require extensive knowledge or special tools.

“You don’t have to know how to do a whole lot,” said Carl Brown, 2015 Chair of Great Days of Service. “We’ve got youth and church youth groups that participate. You’re teaching young people what it’s all about too, which is really encouraging. Some jobs do require skill, but another part of it is can you take direction to help do what the task is. Sometimes you just need the manpower to help get things done.”

For Oseka, any help towards maintaining her house is more than enough.

“I am so joyous and thankful to organizations like Great Days,” Oseka said. “If it wasn’t for them, I’d probably have to live in government housing if I wasn’t able to keep my house. It gives me more hope and encouragement and builds my self-esteem. It makes me feel better.”

Oseka had many home repair hurdles to overcome since her husband passed away from cancer.

“My husband did some of the work but unfortunately his cancer of thirteen years limited him, and he couldn’t get out to do the rest of the work,” Oseka said.

Even her own health has prevented her from being able to properly maintain her home, but with the help of Great Days of Service, she is now filled with hope and gratitude.

“The majority is congestive heart failure,” Oseka said. “So longevity, the doctors tell me this and that, that it’s not going to be very long. Well, this makes me feel a hundred percent better. It gives me more of a will to want to stay around, and it restores my faith in humanity.”