Proul Oil and Volunteer Help Stratham Woman With Home Repairs on Day of Hope

October 20, 2009
By: Lara Bricker

STRATHAM - Patricia Olson does not have the ability to speak, but there was no question what she thought of the volunteers outside her home Saturday.

Olson, 61, was overwhelmed by the generosity of the crew from the Day of Hope on Oct. 17 that came to help repair the roof, windows, chimney and do some landscaping at her Stratham Heights Road home.

Olson cannot speak and communicates by spelling out words using a paper with the alphabet on it or by writing notes. She handed the volunteers a note when they arrived Saturday that said, "I thank God that he brings men like you here."

Three years ago, Olson paid a local roofing contractor up front to repair the roof on her home. The man did a portion of the job and then took off without finishing the job or returning her money.

"After I heard the story of what happened to this woman, I said, 'I should do every thing I could to help her out,'" said Mike Moran, a woodworker from Exeter. Moran spent Saturday replacing rotted wood around Olson's windows and sealing them up for winter.

The Day of Hope was the collaborative effort of Vita Nova, New Hampshire Catholic Charities, St. Michael's Parish in Exeter and St. Mary's Parish in Newmarket. On Saturday, volunteers descended on a handful of homes in the area to help people who were elderly or disabled with projects around their homes.

The project was modeled after the Eight Days of Hope project that brought carpenters, electricians and builders to places like New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and Iowa City after the massive flooding there. Most of the volunteers at Olson's home were members of St. Michael's Parish in Exeter.

Steve Duffley of Manchester, was one of the people behind bringing the project to New Hampshire and helped repair Olson's chimney on Saturday. He rebuilt the top of the chimney by adding new mortar between bricks.

"The bricks were ready to fall in on two sides," Duffley said, adding the work is extremely rewarding. "You give to people that can't give anything back to you. The volunteers get so much more out of it than the homeowners because of that."

Local landscaper Mark Babcock of Faithful Land Care and Design, spent the day adding flower beds to the front of Olson's yard, and clearing out twigs and debris. The new mulch and flowers were all donated by local businesses, including Shaw's, Scamman's Home and Garden and Churchill's.

"I've never seen anyone that happy before," Babcock said of Olson's reaction to the volunteers.

Sue Breton, who is the parish nurse for St. Michael's, visits Olson regularly as part of a church program that reaches out to those who are home-bound. Breton explained that after Olson's experience with the roofer who took her money, the project was not ever done.

A group of Exeter area volunteers pose with Stratham resident Patricia Olson (third from left in hat) as they volunteered to do a variety of home improvement projects at Olson's home as part of the Day of Hope, a collaborative effort of Vita Nova, New Hampshire Catholic Charities, St. Michael’s Parish in Exeter and St. Mary’s Parish in Newmarket. (photo courtesy

Because Olson does not speak, it is hard for her to call contractors on the phone to arrange for work to be done. When Breton heard about the Day of Hope project, she suggested the volunteers visit Olson's home.

"I knew that there was work that needed to be done," Breton said.

Using her paper with the alphabet, Olson communicated what she wanted to tell the volunteers working on her home. She said it was "wonderful" and then added, she "feels blessed."

"Make sure they know I appreciate it very much, all of them," Olson said.

Brothers Mark and Scott Pittendreigh of Exeter, worked on Olson's roof and said they were going to return to repair a bay window that was completely rotted at the bottom. The materials for Olson's home were all donated by local businesses, including Exeter Lumber, AH Thermo and Proulx Oil. St. Anthony's Bakery donated food for the volunteers.

"It's our God-given talents," Mark Pittendreigh said of why he was helping. "It feels good in the heart to help out wherever we can."

His brother Scott added, "It makes us feel as good as it makes her feel."