They call themselves the “Mad Men.”
But they’re a far cry from the sleazy, self-indulgent advertising executives portrayed in the popular AMC show.
These boys and men are members of the church in Cleveland Heights, and they spend many of their summer Saturdays helping homeowners with various repairs. The materials and their time are free to residents.
Boys, men and a few girls and women work together to tuck-point bricks, rebuild porches and complete other projects. Those with no previous experience take tips from the contractors and engineers in the group.
Mad stands for “making a difference.” The team’s mission is to help homeowners in need and also serve as an example for the youth who volunteer.
“We’re building a relationship with kids when they’re younger” said John Flowers. “Kids are able to learn about community service, and we keep them on the right path.”
Youth pastor Rodney Collins said the church takes teens to volunteer with the Pittsburgh Project each year. The summer and after-school program hosts kids who help seniors with home repairs.
Collins wondered, why can’t we do that in our own neighborhood, too?
The group started asking around at church and lending a hand to people who needed it. But then Collins reached out to the .
This is the first year the group has partnered with the HRRC, a Cleveland Heights-based non-profit organization that teaches homeowners how to keep their houses in good shape and provides tool loan, and other programs.
Kathryn Lad, executive director of the organization, said the HRRC provides tools and referrals to the Mad Men.
"There is always a need. For many reasons people need help — mostly people who are older and who are very low income, and there are some repairs that an able-bodied person may be able to do by themselves but they don’t have the resources," Lad said. "We’re excited because they’ve been able to use our resources here ... its’ a great partnership."
The Mad Men have five projects lined up with the HRRC, not including the six others they have planned this summer.
Josiah Collins, 13, said he doesn’t mind getting up early, even on Saturday.
“I just like helping other people. Seeing what we’re doing here makes me feel good, making somebody else’s life easier and happier,” Collins said, smiling. Paint was splattered on his clothes from the wooden sections of the porch, and he wore big beige work boots.
Devyn Valpando, 17, said he also enjoys volunteering and learning how to complete repairs on his own.
“It just helps show there is good in the community, and people do care and want to help,” said Valpando, who is one of five teen volunteers.
The group was scheduled to repair a front porch on Edgehill Road on Saturday, July 7. The wooden platform was warped and had water damage. About 10 people showed up on the job, despite the 110-degree heat index expected that day.
“The porch was like a mini trampoline when we got here,” volunteer Tony Spring said.
The men took breaks while waiting for extra tools or to talk about the next step in the project. They talked about their religion and why it was important they were there.
“The Bible says that we are to provide for the needy, the poor, the orphans and the widows. Not just to talk about the word of God, but act,” Collins said.
Then they turned to the kids.
“We want to be able to bond with them, and this is one way for us to do it. That way they’ll be able to associate with us and feel comfortable,” said Tyrone Hinton, a teacher at the church. “And we understand that people need a lot of help."