Volunteer crew replaces leaky Sumner roof for free

As the afternoon sky spat snow Saturday, a crowd of more than 20 workers scampered across the top of Jamie Knoblauch’s Sumner house to do the years-overdue work of putting down a new roof.

Not one of them was paid to be there.

“It’s kind of like a Christmas miracle,” said Knoblauch, who had watched rainwater push mold and rot through her house’s ceilings and floorboards for months. “Like my own Christmas miracle.”

Knoblauch, a divorced mother of two young girls, watched the volunteer construction crew convene on her house this weekend starting in early Saturday’s bitter cold. With so many workers, they expect to have the roof done by Sunday evening.

They had come because of a series of connections: Knoblauch, who didn’t have the $20,000-plus a roof replacement would cost, had asked outreach workers at Calvary Community Church in Sumner, which she attends, for help. Some parishioners volunteered to show up and take on the labor.

Then Steve McCasland, from Lake Tapps, heard about the project. He rounded up donated materials to make Knoblauch’s roof the first project of his new construction nonprofit, Humble Hammers.

The result put Dave Soushek and other project volunteers on Knoblauch’s rooftop, drawing warmth off the flames of a propane burner as they scorched torch down roofing into place. Soushek isn’t a roofer by trade, but he runs an Orting home-repair business and wanted to help.

He shrugged when asked whether the work was a challenge.

“I’ll figure it out if I don’t know, or I’ll look it up on YouTube and go from there,” he said during a break atop the roof.

The problem they were there to fix had been growing for years. The house, a one-story rambler, had its original roof from 1969, Knoblauch said. What had begun as a dribble of water into a bathroom had grown too bad to ignore. In October’s record rainfall, the mold smell had grown overpowering, and the leak poured into the shower and an adjacent bedroom. Knoblauch’s daughters, 6 and 1, had their sleeping arrangements changed to accommodate the perpetual drip.

Knoblauch could not afford the repair. She went from stay-at-home mom to a new job at an insurance company six months ago to support the family after her marriage ended. Last week, she staved off a foreclosure auction that had been scheduled later this month for the home they had lived in since 2009.

“It was terrible how much it leaked,” she said. “Buckets.”

Enter the Calvary Community Church volunteers and McCasland’s nascent nonprofit.

“I work for a contractor, and I know that it’s expensive to do home repairs,” McCasland said. “There’s just too many out there like her who have nowhere to turn, and they don’t have the money for it.”

McCasland said he wants to take up similar work whenever material and hours are available.

He isn’t the only one who has reached out to assist Knoblauch. Her father and brother will help with drywall inside the house after the roof leaks are gone.

A crowdfunding webpage started by a friend had raised $2,500 as of Saturday toward covering dump fees and other associated costs from the roof project. A neighbor who saw the work scene Saturday gave Knoblauch money to buy a pizza lunch for the impromptu work crew.

Knoblauch sat at her dining table Saturday afternoon and listened to the thump of progress coming from atop her house. She shook her head when asked whether she could believe what was going on.

“I think when it rains next time and it’s not leaking inside of my house is when it’ll all hit me,” she said.

Derrick Nunnally: 253-597-8693, @dcnunnally