The House of the Carpenter has been helping the poor, homeless and underprivileged families in the Ohio Valley for a half a century, but its mission has changed and evolved with the community’s need.
The West Virginia Methodist Church saw a growing problem with poverty in the Northern Panhandle once steel and coal production started to decline in the 1960’s. The church started the House of the Carpenter to be a solution to that problem.
In June of 1964, the Bishop of the West Virginia Methodist Church appointed David Kirk to lead the House of the Carpenter on Wheeling Island. The original mission was small and simple.
“They had three things that they were doing: they had a food pantry that was serving about 30 families a month; they had a free store; and David loved basketball so he was playing basketball on the street courts to get to know the kids and to begin to become more aware of the poverty issues that were facing everyone,” said executive director Mike Linger.
Since then, the House of the Carpenter has expanded from three programs to more than 30, which benefit the underprivileged specifically, children. The organization moved from working for the poor to working with the poor.
“There’s a part that, yes, you have to meet the basic needs but you can allow for some dignity and self direction by allowing folks to have choices. So we began to transition and began to teach that we’re not in ministry for the poor, we’re in ministry with them,” Linger said.
Associate Director Michelle Lucarelli added, “It’s very difficult to get out of poverty if you don’t have the skills, the education, or the self confidence so the more skills we can teach folks, the better chance of them to be able to move on from the situations that they’re in.”
Both Linger and Lucarelli credit their faith for their involvement and the expansion of the House of the Carpenter.
“A big part of the faith that we have and the way that faith is measured is the way in which we respond to those around us,” Linger said. “If we’re not doing that than I really think we’ve begun to fail in our biblical mandate.”
Lucarelli added, “This is my chance to be able to give back, I have a very strong faith and I believe that we can make a difference even if it’s one child that can move beyond their circumstances, then I’ve accomplished something in my life.”
The directors are both looking forward to new projects for the House of the Carpenter as they implement programs to help relatives become legal guardians of the children they are caring for, and finding affordable housing for underprivileged families.
The House of the Carpenter starts its next program in two weeks, Nov. 21, when it begins sending food for the weekends home with every student at Madison Elementary School on Wheeling Island.