The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


April 23, 2014

Unselfish love for another | Friends, strangers help rebuild home

JOHNSTOWN — Joe Varmecky is back in his man cave.

    On Thursday, the deaf and partially blind resident of Upper Yoder Township accepted the keys to his new house, courtesy of Hosanna Industries Inc.

The Rochester, Beaver County, faith-based nonprofit rebuilt Varmecky’s Swank Street structure after it was ravaged by fire in October. The original foundation was saved and served as the building block for the new home.

More than 100 volunteers lent their skills and muscle, or served as gophers, to help raise the home during a “blitz build.” The residence was completed – from sill plate to shingles, drywall to vinyl siding – in just four days.

“There’s a lot you can do with manpower like that,” Amanda Becker, a Hosanna mission worker, told Tribune-Democrat reporter Justin Dennis. “Not everyone has to know how to swing a hammer.”

Becker said Hosanna was notified of Varmecky’s plight shortly after the fire. The ministry put out feelers throughout the area to gauge the amount of help and funding it could rely on.

Soon, donations were adding up and volunteers were lining up to offer aid. Some had heard of Varmecky, others were just caring, compassionate, local individuals who were willing to aid a fellow human who was down on his luck.

Varmecky had high praise for all involved in the “blitz build.”

“I like it – two thumbs up,” he signed through David Lee, a friend and former co-worker who also is deaf. “I’m just happy to be home.”

The ministry took Varmecky’s physical limitations into account when it designed the new home. The doorbell and smoke detectors are connected to a flashing strobe. If fire would strike again, Varmecky would have more appropriate warning.

In October, an Upper Yoder Township police officer, Sgt. Jeffrey Berkebile, pulled Varmecky to safety from the burning structure.

“He sort of grunts – that’s how I heard him in the living room,” Berkebile said during an interview after the fire.

The law-enforcement officer said he had to restrain Varmecky from re-entering his home until Varmecky actually saw the flames.

With his new digs, Varmecky can get back to the vocation he loves. The basement contains a workshop for Varmecky, who is a very talented woodworker.

The fire had ruined many of his hand tools and destroyed most of his equipment.

Varmecky, through Lee, signed that he will be back to work immediately.

“He’s very talented,” Lee said of the man who tutored him in woodworking. “He’s got a good imagination, too – creativity. He just comes up with his own designs for things.”

The new home would not have been possible without the love and support of friends and strangers alike.

And Hosanna provided a valuable support base.

Many people worked selfishly to restore Varmecky’s dignity and livelihood.

It tugs at our heartstrings to read and hear about others who will put their problems aside for a few days to help someone else who is struggling.

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Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
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