Handyman is a hero in Haiti
by Staci Giordullo
"Need you terribly. Come as quick as you can."
That was the message Tom Manassero, owner of highly rated Homepro Handyman Services in Oceanside, Calif., received from his brother, Bill, a missionary managing an orphanage and school in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after the January earthquake.
According to the Haitian government, the 7.0 magnitude quake killed an estimated 230,000 people, injured 300,000 and left more than 1 million homeless.
Miraculously, at Lighthouse Orphanage, the most serious injury of the 50 children who live there was a broken leg. "They were amazingly blessed," Manassero says.
However, there was a significant amount of damage. Manassero knew his expertise in construction would be invaluable during the rebuilding process, but didn't know where to begin.
"We had no game plan," he says. "We had to get funding. We didn't know where we were going to stay or what we were going to eat, but we knew we had to go."
After the Manasseros' church raised money for their airfare, they flew to the Dominican Republic and took a 12-hour bus ride into Haiti. "We went straight to the orphanage and got to work," Manassero says. "It was very emotional. I saw so much suffering, so much need."
Manassero says training the older boys from the orphanage how to help with the reconstruction was just as important as the work itself. "I taught them how to do repair work - a trade so they could support themselves," he says.
Having dropped everything to go to Haiti, Manassero knew his time there was limited. "I thought we could afford to be gone a month," he says.
But after word started to spread about his unselfish endeavor, several customers sent him checks to help cover the bills while he was away. "It kept happening," he says. "And we knew we could stay for another month. And then another month." The 2009 Super Service Award winner ended up staying three months to help rebuild and plans to return to Haiti in the future.
Angie's List member Mary Lou Stringham of Escondido, Calif., considers Tom her "go-to" guy for handyman work and says she wasn't surprised to hear of the Manassero's trip to Haiti.
"That kind of incredible generosity is exactly what one would expect of Tom and his wife, Nancy," she says. "Tom is an extraordinary worker, but more than that, he's an extraordinary person." Stringham says she gladly donated $150 to support their trip. "It was the least I could do," she says. "It's money very well spent!"
Even though his work was amongst total devastation and the stench of rotting corpses buried beneath rubble, Manassero says daily prayer and the drive of the Haitian people kept him going.
"They're very hardworking and prideful people," he says. "They don't like to ask. They'd show up at 6 a.m. with shovels and picks and work to sundown. It was amazing."