Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Blessings Count Volunteers Keep Up Church Buildings and Grounds, Keep Down Repair Costs

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Blessings Count Volunteers Keep Up Church Buildings and Grounds, Keep Down Repair Costs

Article excerpt

Churches get old. Paint chips, pipes rust, roofs leak and heaters break down in the middle of January.

In many churches, volunteers are as close as a telephone when a job needs to get done. Church members use their professional skills in engineering, carpentry and architecture to redesign confessionals, build additions and construct concrete foundation pads for compressors.

Back-yard horticulturists plant daffodils and roses. They trim shrubs, mow acres of lawn, maintain the church cemetery and patch weed-infested cracks on parking lots.

Most church maintenance volunteers are retirees. They are unsung heroes who shun recognition for their labors even as they save their churches thousands of dollars in labor costs every year.

Some 50 volunteer workers at St. Peter Catholic Church in St. Charles have saved the parish about $300,000 in the past six years, according to St. Peter's pastor, the Rev. Arthur Bromschwig. There are five large buildings in the parish complex, including the elementary school. The present church was constructed in 1861.

"We have a wonderful group of men who are very organized. They meet regularly and work closely with the parish staff on projects and repair jobs," Bromschwig said. "In addition, we have a hard-working group of ladies who polish our many statues and clean the church on a regular basis."

Irvin Rufkahr, 68, is director and coordinator of the St. Peter volunteer work force. Rufkahr is a retired foreman from McDonnell Douglas Corp. and a lifelong member of the parish. He graduated from St. Peter Elementary School and the old St. Peter High School.

Rufkahr spends as many as 35 hours a week at the church and at his home computer. He draws up plans, organizes work schedules and does general repair work, including woodworking and electrical and plumbing.

Rufkahr's first task was to reconstruct the church's confessionals to give parishioners the option of open confession. He and his workers recently built two offices adjacent to the school cafeteria.

Rufkahr suffered a heart attack a few years ago that he said prompted a reassessment of his priorities. That and gratitude for his education is what inspires him to give so much of his time to the church.

"This is one way I can give back to the dedicated nuns and priest for all they did for me," he said.

Another group of fixer-uppers are the Tuesday Tinkerers of St. Charles Presbyterian Church in St. Charles. In the past year, the Tinkerers and other volunteers repaired cracked tiles, painted much of the building's interior, replaced vinyl flooring and built foundation pads for a new boiler and compressor. Another cadre of volunteers is in charge of the property surrounding the 40-year-old building.

Ed Weaver is a member of the Tuesday Tinkerers. Weaver is a retired engineer who spends a good part of every week at the church. …

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