Smithfield Herald

Women roofers come to rescue

For a Johnston County family, a group of volunteers came to their home just in time.

Shelby Jean Stanley lives in Princeton with her 10-year-old great-granddaughter, Kaylee Craig, who has a muscle disease.

In April, Stanley came home from a hospital stay of her own to find part of the ceiling in the living room had caved in. After that, whenever it rained, water leaked near Kaylee’s medical equipment, Stanley said.

“They’re going to cancel my (homeowner’s) insurance in November if I don’t get it repaired, and I don’t have the money to have it done,” she said.

Stanley told a nurse, who put her in touch with the Red Cross, which steered her to the JoCo Project, a local charity. Over two days earlier this month, the JoCo Project joined the volunteer Women Roofers, replacing rotted wood and hammering on new shingles, all for free.

Stanley said she would have been at a loss without the help. “I don’t know what I could have done, because my family isn’t able to help me; they’re just getting by themselves,” she said.

Stanley said the volunteers were a blessing. “You just don’t realize that you’ve got this good of people out there in the world anymore,” she said. “I couldn’t get on the floor and pray 24 hours a day for all this good help.”

“Young people and older people trying to help people out – I’m just so impressed I just can’t believe it,” Stanley said.

The Women Roofers, who hail from Rutherford County, have received national media attention for their gender-defying way of giving back: roofing the homes of those who can’t afford it. Seven women traveled four hours to Johnston County to work with the JoCo Project, an interdenominational mission of young people and adults who repair homes in the county. Eight volunteers from the JoCo Project joined the Women Roofers on Oct. 4 in Princeton; 10 came the next day.

“We were real pleased at the enthusiasm of the volunteers, who had never done anything like that before,” said Nell Perry Bovender, one of the first Women Roofers.

The heat on the first day was intense, and Bovender said the groups weren’t sure they would be able to finish the roof by the end of the second day. But with a fresh group of volunteers, the project got done on time.

“We’ve made some really good friends,” Bovender said. “We would consider the possibility of coming again just because it would be nice to see a group form there like has formed here.”

Claire Sharpe, a junior at Smithfield-Selma High School, joined the Women Roofers on the Princeton project, but she wasn’t a rookie to the task; Sharpe said she’s been roofing for three years with her church.

The teen said she had fun working with a group of women. “You’d never guess how old some of them are,” she said. Usually, Sharpe said, she works with mostly men.

Sharpe said she likes roofing because of the camaraderie and the responsibility. She’s roofed in different states and called the work a great way to meet people.

But she especially likes helping others. “It glorifies God and shows his mercy and love to us,” she said.

One of the Women Roofers, Donna Ohmstead, 70, of Forest City, said she hopes roofing in Johnston County will encourage others to start volunteering. Ohmstead said once people see their group complete a project, they will know “it’s possible.”

Ohmstead started roofing after seeing the Women Roofers in the news – she realized she knew half of them. So Ohmstead said to herself, “ ‘I might be able to do that.’ And I can.”

Jane Alexander, 64, of Rutherfordton said it was wonderful to work with new women. “It’s just fun to see the excitement with other women,” she said.

Alexander said the women in the group have become some of her best friends. “It just feeds your soul,” she said. “You can have fun at the same time you’re doing good for someone.”