Good Samaritan wants to give back

lakeyjimDecember 29, 2012

When I was 12 yr old, my dad (steam fiter) taught me to sweat copper. My joints were never as pretty as his but in many years of home ownership, 100s of plumbing jobs, I never had a leak. Whether plumbing or other jobs, it was for myself. I never worked in the trades. I helped neighbors and friends add lines, replace tanks, etc, but never did it for pay. My career was computers and then management.

Through 50 yrs of home ownership, I have done virtually every kind of DIY project whether electrical, plumbing, remodeling, auto repair or appliance repair. As a result, i have two or three of every tool known to mankind.

A number of years ago, i was downsized from my job and took a job in a box store which i hated. One day a young couple came, saw sign, "Water heaters $300." and "we install". I heard her say, "honey, we can afford that". They had just bought their first home and the hot water tank was leaking. She started to cry when i said the $300 did not include install and since it was a weekend, the cost would be considerable. I asked the husband if he could pick up the tank and get down their basement. He said yes and i told him he was going to install it himself which he was in disbelief.

I asked what tools he had, showed him to shut off gas, water, cut the pipe and use flexible supplies with compression fittings. They bought the tank and left with my home phone number to call if he had problems. He did call with a minor call on how to light the pilot. The next day, they came in she was crying again and hugged me. The experience gave him a great deal of confidence in himself. This made me feel good and was one of few high points working that crappy job.

At this point in my life, I am retired and too old to do physical things. I sure as hell would have trouble wrestling a tank down stairs. Getting down on my knees is murder and crawling under something isn't high my list. My best position for work is if I can get something up on my workbench. I almost enjoy messing with stuff if I sit down to work on it. I still do most of my own "stuff" including recently laying down on the concrete floor to change a drive belt on the dryer. I paid for this in aches and pains for two days.

From exposure to many young people, with some exceptions, they are helpless and at the mercy of tradesmen. Even if tradesmen are fair (most are), in this economy, a repair can be out of the budget for young, struggling homeowners.

I have tools, including torches, cutters and probably a couple hundred various size "spare" copper fittings, valves, pipes, toilet parts and more. When ever i bought stuff, i always overbought because i don't like having to drive back to a store. The same goes for 100s, maybe thousands of screws, bolts and electrical stuff.

So here is my question: How can I find young people (homeowners) who could use my help? I have no desire to charge a penny and if i have needed spare parts fittings, etc, it's theirs. I don't want to help yuppies, driving BMWs. If I am going to donate my time, knowledge, tools, and stuff, I want it to be for someone who needs it.

My thinking is if I can help a young person become a little more self sufficient, who knows, they may even reassess their own situation and not rely on others (government). Maybe it will instill a little common sense when they go to a voting booth.

So how do I reach these people who honestly need help and not looking for a feebie? Remember I want to show them how to do things, not do it for them. I've tried various church and ministries but keep ending up with people who want me to do the work myself. I'm not looking to find the Craigslist killer so that isn't high on my list. Does anyone know of a one on one help forum for people in the same locality?

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Sophie Wheeler

Your heart is in the right place, but your head isn't. You've already got the cream of the crop through going through some local churches. They won't come with much better references than that.

The big issue is that most people simply don't want to learn how to DIY. They'd prefer to put in a few more hours at work and pay someone to do it. Even if they are barely making ends meet. It's not just that DIY is intimidating. It's that snob bit of looking down at those who can do trades.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2012 at 3:36PM
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I think you'd be welcomed open armed at a local school or two that teaches shop etc. What you're offering is a true gift and as an older professional, I lament not having learned basic plumbing, electrical, woodworking and more. But I'm trying to now. Your teaching might change a young person's course in life. Hefty offer.

Thanks for your post. It shows kindness and generosity during the holiday season.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2012 at 7:15PM
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Where are there still schools that teach shop and trades?

The hands-on skills have slipped by the wayside. Rather than teach students how to do things and solve problems, the schools only focus on testing. Multiple choice testing. That is where the problem lies. In real life, multiple choice situations are not where you want to be. Pick from one of these three options: my way, the wrong way, or someone else's way.

How can we expect young people to have the intellect and confidence to figure out their own "right" answer to a problem?

    Bookmark   January 7, 2013 at 11:34AM
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Habitat for Humanity comes to mind. As for teaching at a school etc, I think that's awesome, but if you're not trade-qualified it might be discouraged or not allowed.

Habitat would be the best bet, I would say.

I agree that people should learn to do stuff themselves, and also that a lot eschew such 'menial' work. I personally love it and find it empowering, in fact you sound a lot like me (especially the over-buying.) I hope you find the right people, and perhaps inspire some. Maybe some youth groups?

    Bookmark   January 8, 2013 at 2:03AM
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aidan_m-large public high schools in diverse communities with low, middle and high income population often have hands-on courses in addition to the required academic courses. In our city there are car mechanics, chef kitchens, wood working, tech courses on printing and design and how to prepare yourself for jobs after high school etcetera. There is also work/study (which may fill the OP desire to MENTOR). Many kids take at least one or more over their high school years. This is by design, as many will enter the workforce immediately and/or do community college as opposed to full time college. It's a good system for the community (which pushes hiring within) and the kids.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2013 at 8:00PM
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How thought provoking your post is. As I understand, you want to show other people how to DO the work, sharing your knowledge, and a few parts along the way.

How about touching bases with a youth group that does projects for others. Habitat is certainly one thought, but if you could connect with a youth group, you can share your knowledge with the members of the group, and their efforts (and physical labor) can provide help to the recipient.

Say for example you connect with Eagle Scouts, (a little older, and a little more mature.) If they selected a low-income or disabled person that needed a few plumbing repairs, a porch repaired and painted, and a few electrical outlets replaced, you can teach the scouts how to do those things. If the recipient was physically unable to help, so be it. That would be a win-win-win!

Bless you for giving of yourself and your knowledge.


    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 11:26PM
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I know your heart is in the right place and commend you for your effort. After I retired I was very interested in mentoring youth and sharing my knowledge and experiences. The first group I contacted was the local churches. I found exactly what you did, those in need were looking for someone to do the job not teach. Most were single mothers as well as seniors whom could not do the work themselves for many reasons. Not having been blessed with children I find myself helping nieces and nephews now that were too young to own their own places but now do, as they say charity begins at home, even then my nieces and single sisters in law aren't about to learn how to lay tile or drive a nail. Older aunts and uncles need it done for them.

I have a friend who's wife works for the dean at the local community college, I found out quickly from her that qualifications were very stringent. The only thing I was going to teach, if I passed the interviews, passed the testing which included a psychological written test and an interview with a board certified psychologist, prove my communication skills through very intensive oral and written testing, provide a resume of all my teaching qualifications and my work history then all I had to do is provide a clear criminal background clearance. What I was qualified to teach was health and safety which was part of my job when I retired, as well as supervisory skills for front line supervisors, if I wanted to do that I would have stayed where I was and get paid a heck of a lot more money which I was not looking for anyway. I would have also be taking the position of a teaching grad that needs the job more than I. The process I described was for a teaching assistant only. Forget about teaching DIY skills without a tradesman ticket. The same goes for High School and Jr. High. There is no such thing as a mentor position in the education system here, teaching assistant yes. I am not criticizing the process, I sure want my kids being taught by the best and want to know that those in the teaching profession are stable and not some nut job, especially in todays society.

I chose not to help at the church because of my own physical limitations now and as my wife pointed out I do not want to be put in a position where I am alone with someone I know absolutely nothing about, church or no church. Then there is the liability issues to deal with, if I happen to make a mistake or not get my point across and someone is injured can I be held liable. Telling someone how to install a gas hot water tank without knowing his and her skill level is absurd. Gas is something you don't mess with. How would one feel if that young fellow didn't do a leak and pressure test on the fittings etc. and the young couple succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning. I sure wouldn't want to live the rest of my life with that hanging over my head. How do you know that what you learned is the right way?

We give with our hearts but must think with our brain. Let us all know how you have made out. Or is one of those threads where the OP disappears? I hope not I truly believe from your post you are a special person.

Be careful my friend.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 4:14AM
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Wish you lived near us! We could learn so much from you! My husband and I are attempting to do some work on our own. Our home is very out dated and in need. Our problems began around 2001 when first my husband found he had esophageal cancer after which he had a major surgery where his esophagus was removed and the stomach was attached to his throat. He had a lengthy recuperation. Soon after my son had a surgery that went horribly wrong and we spent months and months with him the hospital. He was born with a disabling genetic disorder and unfortunately the infection left him with more to struggle with.

Now years later we are looking at our house and seeing a place that needs much work. We are trying to do it but having to learn as we go. We spent our time and energy working through the medical issues and we let our house be secondary. I have often thought how nice it would be to have someone who could help guide us in how to do some of these things. Some people know a family member or friend who give helpful advice but we do not. I am sure we are not alone since many people hire contractors or just wait until they can afford one. We are attempting to put a new toilet and sink into a bathroom. Surely if your knowledge is valuable to us, it could be a treasure trove for many others! Most importantly, the need exists for a resourceful person as you are to provide information in order to do repairs on ones own. We end up delaying many home maintenance and repair jobs because we are not sure how or cannot afford to hire someone.

You have expertise to help in a consultant or teacher role. I know how valuable your service could be for us so there must be plenty of others in similar need. We live in times when we need to be resourceful by learning how to do more for ourselves. Very likely we share similar ideas regarding government, self reliance and need for common sense. Your ideas must not go to waste. Please don't give up these creative thoughts in how to generously use your talents in a unique way. In fact, I think that your ideas are divinely inspired. Moreover, your desire to assist others to help themselves is a blessing and I pray that your thoughts grow wings!

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 9:59PM
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