Congregations Join to Repair Family’s Burned Home

Post a Comment » Written on October 16th, 2008     
Filed under: News
CLAY, NY (October 16, 2008) – Larry Gibbens, 70, had been to New Orleans twice on work crews from Grace Covenant Church to help people whose homes had been destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Recently, he and other members started responding to a need closer to home.

Members of Grace Covenant, which sent a total of five teams to New Orleans, now are assisting a Syracuse family of 11 who lost most of their possessions in a fire. The family had no homeowners insurance.

FamilyThe fire forced Ann and Erich Chaplin, as well as their nine children ages 4 to 18, out of their home. Erich, a former Syracuse city employee, is on disability.

Larry and Diane Gibbens and Don and Jessica Snyder read about the family’s plight in August and pitched the idea to the church of helping the Chaplins rebuild the four-bedroom house. The missions committee eagerly agreed, Diane says.

The congregation has teamed up with a local Lutheran congregation that also read about the family and independently decided to help.

Almost every day over the last month, Don Snyder, has led roughly a dozen volunteers as they cleaned out the damage and rebuilt floors, walls, and ceilings. Construction on the roof was expected to be completed this week.

So far, workers have replaced 18 windows that cost $250 each. Money for all but four has been pledged.

The Gibbens family has paid for most of the materials with their credit card and are trusting that donations will come in to help pay some of the expenses. The two churches hope to raise $10,000.

Larry Gibbens is a retired social studies teacher, and members of the teachers union have donated money, food, and clothes and also plan to help at the site. Other churches have donated items, as have local companies.

The Chaplins help in any way they can. Erich is helping as much as possible, but needs a hip replacement, Diane says.

She says the church hopes to have the family back in the house by the end of the month. They have been living in a flat. “It’s very crowded, and they’re anxious to get back in their home.”

Chaplin family members have attended the church several times since the work began. They refer to church members as “their angels.”

Diane says, “They are very sweet people who have been so grateful.”

Anyone interested in donating to help with expenses can send checks to Grace Covenant Church, 5300 State Route 31, Clay, NY, 13041, designating Chaplin Fund on the memo line.

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