NBC News on top of the roofers story
The Women Roofers of Rutherford County have never sought national publicity but they welcome all the opportunities the media has provided. Through the national exposure of the volunteer women's group and its leader, Billy Honeycutt, the roofers hope others will see their story and become interested in helping, both financially and physically, and even begin groups similar to theirs in other parts of the country.
So when NBC News called recently and set up an appointment with the roofers, they were delighted.
The four person crew arrived last Wednesday during spring break for Rutherford County school students, allowing more roofers than usual to be on top of the house. More than 30 roofers and guests completed a roofing project at the home of a senior citizen on First Street in Forest City.
NBC News correspondent Stephanie Gosk, producer Jay Blackman, audio director Dwaine Scott and cameraman Joe Hoerdenann, arrived at about 8:30 a.m. The crew remained until the last shingle was nailed and the Women Roofers,with their arms raised to the sky, yelled their signature finish line, "hootie hoo."
Near the end of the work day, the homeowner came outside and asked with a quiet voice, "are you finished?"
"Just about," answered a roofer.
Blackman and Gosk said the piece is tentatively scheduled to air at the end of next week, depending on the structure of the news day.
Nell Bovender, volunteer and executive director of Rutherford Housing Partnership said it will be the program's "feel good" piece for the day.
During an interview with Gosk, she said she was so impressed by the Women Roofers in several aspects. "One is their enthusiasm, another their level of skill. These are ladies out there who really know what they are doing. They know what is going on that roof."
Gosk said although they refer to Billy Honecutt as "boss" they are skilled in their duties and work well together.
Gosk said she was impressed by the fact there are the "know hows" and also "teachables" and it is evident the "more skilled women brought the new people into the fold and taught them how to make this work."
"I was a northerner coming down to North Carolina . . . and I didn't expect to see these sweet southern ladies doing this," Gosk continued.
"I was really touched by how warm they are to each other and and how funny they were.
"Nell (Bovender) said to me there is a great balance in what they are able to give someone in need and what they got out of the moment themselves and that is what drives them to keep coming back . . .They love the fatigue at the end of the day and they are tired because they have helped somebody and it's a whole different kind of tired. It is a very rewarding feeling and you can tell that is what drives them," Gosk said.
She said people can sit at home and send a check to help someone and that is a "good deed as well. But it doesn't have the same effect as getting your hands dirty."
Gosk said about halfway through the day a neighbor came across the street and asked Lori Herrick, a charter member of the roofers, if she could come in her house and seek a hole in the floor.
"She went over there and told the neighbors they could take a plywood board and and some nails and get that fixed up. They went over there, cut the wood, fixed the hole and did it as easily as they did . . .with their skills. It was so cool," Gosk said.
"It was such a great day and such a pleasure to meet them and see what they do, so impressed me. I wish them Godspeed for the rest of their lives .. with that kind of enthusiasm they will go on," Gosk said.
"It makes me want to go down next weekend and roof with them. They are definitely a unique group of women in a lot of aspects," Gosk said.
At the end of the day on Wednesday Bovender said the group completed the roofing job faster than she anticipated because of the extra volunteers.
"And we had a lot of fun. They (NBC) seemed to enjoy themselves. It was a good day all the way around."
Teenager Faith Archer was also a special guest. She joined her mother Beth Archer on the roof and Josh Starnes, another teenager, worked all day obtaining volunteer hours for his AP Academy requirement.
Faith told Beth, "Mom, I know why you enjoy it so much," Bovender said.
Starnes said he plans to return on another roofing job as soon as possible.
Roofer Helen Rogers brought her daughter, Susan Brendenuhl and three granddaughters Abigail, Deborah and Anna, who are visiting from Alaska.
"They had a great time," Rogers said.
NBC's crew told the women the best part of their job is being able to get out into the communities and meet people such as the roofers.
The roofers first received national attention from a major television network last summer when CBS Evening News sent a crew to Rutherfordton to film the women at work.
CBS heard about the Women Roofers from AARP magazine that featured senior roofer Donna Ohmstead of Forest City in a piece they wrote on the country's senior citizen volunteers.
The roofers celebrated their 10th anniversary this year.
They roof all the Habitat for Humanity homes and repair and put new roofs on the homes of low income and senior citizens.
For information on how to help, call 248-3431.