Going the extra mile (actually, 570 of them)

Father Sikoria Council helps a family in need in Kentucky

If ever a family was in need of some help, it was Denny and Alyssa Philipps and their three children: Jared, age 6; Gavin, age 5; and Trevor, age 2. They had lost everything in a fire in their home in December 2011, and had been relying on the generosity of relatives for a place to stay ever since.


The Philipps family lives in McCreary County, Kentucky, one of the poorest counties in America, with fifty percent of the children living in poverty. In 2001, Father Vincent S. Sikoria Council 2996 in Burke began working with a Christian non-profit organization, Appalachian Construction Crew, Inc., to build homes for needy families selected by Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Whitley City, KY.


When Appalachian Construction Crew, which is based at Offut Air Force Base in Nebraska, began experiencing major financial challenges, Fr. Sikoria Council asked Church of the Nativity Pastor Father Richard Martin whether it might be possible to invite the entire parish to support the effort.

Fr. Martin enthusiastically agreed, and the council now addresses the congregation on a designated weekend each January to explain the building effort and seek support.  The parish has embraced the council's Appalachia Building Project as one is major outreach programs, and together they now provide approximately 80 percent of the funding and crew members for each year's building effort.  Fourteen to sixteen volunteers give up to two weeks of their time to work on the build effort, and many volunteers have participated in at least seven building projects since 2001.

The new home for the Phipps family was built June 6-17, including the long eleven-hour 570 mile drive from Burke. The Crew stayed at a mission-like facility named St. Joseph's Inn, which supports community-wide efforts and houses many volunteer groups.


The council set a new record this year, raising more than $48,000 for the construction of the home, which is the fourteenth to be built with council and Nativity Parish support. Fund raisers included a mega yard sale, an art auction and a weekend Mass collection.


In addition, a council member and his wife organized an effort by 40 families to provide a trailer loaded with new household items and furniture for the Phillips family, which had only a couch to their name. In addition to the 14 crew members from Fr. Sikoria Council, another dozen came from Nebraska, Colorado, Ohio and Maryland.

The task was to build a single family home with three bedrooms in about 12 days. Local craftsmen completed the septic system and ensured that local plumbing and electrical requirements were met. The Crew worked twelve hour days, beginning work each morning at 6:00 a.m., after a 16 mile drive from the Inn.

Fr. Sikoria Council provided the leadership on all three crews: framing/roofing, siding, and porch/support.


The work began on Friday, June 7 when the Crew completed all of the wall framing in a single day. On Saturday, they raised the roof trusses, completed the roof sheathing and tar paper and shingles. Local plumbers and electricians did their work in the evenings.


On Sunday, they worked on porch framing, siding, plumbing and electrical tasks, took a break for Mass at 11:30, and then completed the roofing and porches.  Monday, their work passed inspection, allowing some crew members to move inside to install insulation and drywall and others to attach siding to the outside of the house.


Several more members arrived Tuesday to help complete the finishing work, which took an additional five days. Remaining Crew members departed on June 17.

The Philipps family moved into their new home on Friday, June 21, two weeks after the build effort began. The home had all-new appliances and a heat pump, avoiding the hazard posed by woodstoves.  Denny Philipps, who had been trying to support his family on a $10,000 a year job, has now obtained more skilled employment and a higher salary. The Crew hosted the family, their relatives and local church leadership at a dinner at St. Joseph's Inn, and the "presentation of the keys" to the new house was an emotional time for all. Both Denny and Alyssa were in tears the whole time, overwhelmed with the outpouring of help and caring.


The Knights of Father Sikoria Council are already planning their next deployment in June 2014.

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