The Nativity Knights of Columbus, Father Sikora Council # 7992 had the opportunity to partner with the Appalachian Construction Crew, Inc. in 2001, which is a Christian non-profit organization based out of Omaha, Nebraska. The work of the Crew is located in McCreary County, KY, which the Children’s Defense Fund classified as one of the poorest counties in the nation with over 50 percent of the children living in poverty. For the last 32 years, the Crew has worked with the Good Shepherd Catholic Church of Whitley City, KY, who selects the family and has successfully placed 35 of the neediest families in new homes. The family participates in the building effort if they are able. The home belongs to the family from day one; the only requirement is that the family must own the land.
Many of the families have been on a waiting list for years and live in deplorable conditions. Some have been homeless due to being burned out of their homes and are living with relatives; others are in homes that can’t be heated adequately and family members have chronic medical conditions complicated by living conditions; some are in homes with no indoor plumbing, and most are either making minimum wage or on disability receiving less than $10,000/year and can barely support themselves and pay for food and utilities…paying a mortgage or rent is very problematic for most.
The Omaha Crew faced major challenges in continuing this important work due to the declining support from Offutt AFB activities, increasing costs of building the homes, and a stable work crew to complete the construction. One of the brothers in the Council who was aware of the Crew’s challenges saw the Council’s participation as a tremendous opportunity to extend the outstanding work of the Council beyond Northern Virginia. From 2001 to 2004, the Council and Nativity Catholic Church provided an average of $5,000 to $7,000 and 5 brothers to support the build efforts.
In 2004, the Council engaged Father Martin to ask his support to involve the congregation in the fund raising effort because the Crew from Omaha was having severe financial challenges. Father Martin enthusiastically gave his support and the Council addressed the congregation for the first time in 2005 and raised $25,000. Nativity and the Council now provide on average over 80% of the funding and crew members for the entire building effort. For the last two years, Nativity has contributed over $65,000 and sends a crew of 14-20 dedicated volunteers who give up 1 to 2 weeks of their time to complete the build effort.
The council has now participated in building 20 homes. The homes are 3 bedroom, 2 baths, and approximately 1100 SF and comes with new beds for every family member. The cost for a home now is approximately $75,000 and continues to escalate as the county incorporates more stringent building codes.
Our parish further supports the effort by providing new/gently used household items to help the families transition to their new home. Omaha raises an additional $10,000 and provides a crew of 9-12 members.
The Knights of Nativity and their Omaha partners start planning in the fall of each year for their next deployment in the following June.