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Women Roofers celebrate 20 years of roofing 156 homes

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Some of the Women Roofers with Bossman Billy Honeycutt at a recent project in Spindale - celebrating 20 years of roofing. Photo contributed.

When word came to a Sunday School class at First Baptist, Rutherfordton 20 years ago that a Forest City woman needed help because of a leaking roof, the class decided to take on the project.

When the group arrived on Gypsy Street in Forest City to repair the roof that October weekend in 2002, Rev. Billy Honeycutt and his wife Terry; Susie Kernodle and Lori Herrick showed up.

Billy, "Bossman Billy, never suggested the job could wait, but instead he began to lead the women in roofing, by often saying, "let me show you something" and he'd proceed to teach them to roof. Terry said at that time she could not get on a roof.

Today 20 years later and 156 roofs completed, the group is still in existence and yes, Terry, has been on the roof many times.

During the 20th anniversary weekend, October 21-22, the Women Roofers completed a roof on a house in Spindale, begun a couple weeks earlier.

Homeowners David Twitty and Danny Twitty said the roof had been needed to be repaired for a long time.

"We appreciate this so much," David said while observing. He was so grateful.

Billy wasn't physically able to assist with the anniversary roofing project, but gently offered advice from his lawn chair to the women on the roof, offering suggestions when asked.

While Teri Whisnant and Laura Hodge were roofing around a satellite dish, Billy called, "let me tell you what to do. You can put the satellite dish back-up."

Among roofers working during the anniversary weekend were Lori, Susie, Jane, Beth Archer, Beth Stover, Laura, Faith Archer, Hazel, Katrina, Teri, Rachael, Terry, Janet and Jean.

Noticeably absent was Nell Bovender, longtime roofer project coordinator, who was fighting bronchitis.

It is not often a group of women are known for roofing homes which through the years has led to international recognition.

They appeared on CBS News with Brian Pitts (formerly a journalist with ABC) NBC News with Jenna Wolfe; have been in People magazine, featured in Mike Rowe's Facebook video program, "Returning the Favor" in 2018, Rowe; written about in Carolina County and in local news publications.

When the group returned in the Spring of 2003 to complete the roof for the Forest City woman several other women had heard about the great fun so others showed up to re-roof her home.

At times there have been as many as 30 women roofers and other times a core group of 10 or 12 are present depending on schedules. In the early days most of the women were working full-time jobs. Today many are retired and others are continuing to go to public jobs.

When Rutherford Housing Partnership asked the Women Roofers how they wanted to celebrate their two decades of roofing, they said they wanted to roof a house on the same October weekend Billy first taught Lori and Susie how to roof 20 years prior.

"I didn't think 20 years ago, we would be celebrating 20 years of roofing," Lori began. "It was just an idea that took off and with Billy's patient teaching and encouragement, a group of novices, who just happened to be all women, learned a new skill. As we learned more, our love for each other and our passion to help others grew. It worked because the group truly wanted to make a difference one roof at a time. This is how God works through people, right place, right time, open hearts."

Susie said, "we have had a faithful leader, Billy Honeycutt." She said Honeycutt's patience and perseverance with teaching them how to roof "has been the glue that has held us together."

"The women on the roof have shared joy and heartache and as a result, they are stronger women for it all," she said. "We don't roof for any acknowledgement, but roof to know with some satisfaction that another family has had their need for safe shelter met. They have a roof that will keep them and their loved ones dry and safe."

Billy said, "over the last 20 years this group of volunteers has helped and blessed many homeowners by their desire and diligence to ensure a safe and dry roof that each homeowner needed. Their hard work, willingness to take on a task that many see as only for males, their strong willing spirit and quick learning of this type work has had a sense of satisfaction that leaves a smile on one's face.

"The energy that they exude as they work, figure out what needs to be done when an issue arises and the many, many conversations that take place, I've found to be a way of enriching my soul and spirit," Billy said.

Continued on page 20.

"For the blessing they have been and are, I am thankful. This 20th anniversary recognition is well deserved. Nell recalled her fondest memory was the Women Roofers first mission trip to Gulfport in 2006

"We camped out in a church in this town devastated by a hurricane, and we rebuilt the roof on a house - all the way back to the sheathing. There was a point on that trip when I realized not only that we had skills that were making a difference in the lives of people in need but we were also connected to a group spirit that would sustain us each individually. We were becoming deep friends because of our shared skills and our shared faith.

In the early years of roofing, Billy suggested to the roofers' spouses that roofing gloves would be a good Christmas gift, Susie said.

"From that suggestion, most of us ended up with some type of roofing tool for Christmas, birthday, and even Mother's Day," she said.

The women have worked on roofs with Habitat affiliates in other parts of the country, but their primary work is at home in Rutherford County.

"We've worked many, many, many hours on many houses in a lot of places," Billy continued.

While the majority of the roofers are on top of the house, there's also a group of women who work on the ground. They pick up the shingles, paper and nails that come off the roof. The ground crew will pick up a hammer or two that has been dropped by a roofer and get it back to them. They will toss up bottles of water on terribly hot days or get a first aid kit when needed.

Roofer Jane Bell said in the Carolina Country feature story, "I cannot imagine what it must feel like to go to bed at night fearful that it might rain and damage your home and belongings. The gratitude from the homeowners is reward enough, but the icing on the cake is working alongside some of the finest women I have ever met in my life. It is an absolute honor and privilege to be a Woman Roofer, and I'll continue as long as this body is able."

When the Women Roofers were celebrating their anniversary recently, lunch was provided by Calvin and Martha McGinnis and Emily Moose on the second day.

Martha McGinnis made a quilt for Bossman Billy and presented it to him.

In his prayer of blessing for the lunch, Billy thanked the Lord for "all these years of service, doing what you would have us to do...and a knowledge of love."

"Bossman" Billy said some time ago the job of the Women Roofers won't be ending any time soon.

"The need will always be there," he says.

"And remember, always, what is said on the roof, stays on the roof," he said.

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