A team of Band of Builders volunteers descended on Stoke-on-Trent to help repair the home of a 93-year-old former bricklayer with cancer who could no longer maintain the bungalow he built himself in 1970.
Tom Knapper was recently diagnosed with cancer of the liver (which is currently under control), has had two heart attacks and also suffers from arthritis. His son Adrian put out a cry for help, and half a dozen of our volunteers – led by project lead Martin O’Donnell – carried out the work over a weekend in early December.
A grateful Tom told the Stoke Sentinel that he couldn’t praise our volunteers – including one who came from as far afield as Anglesey – enough.
He said: “I really appreciate everything they have done. I haven’t been able to do these things at all, and I would like to give thanks to all of them for what they have done and how decently they have done the job, as well as cleaned the place up.”
Tom built the house for his late wife June and their three children. He lost his wife a couple of months before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and has found living alone in isolation very difficult. He also told the Sentinel that he’d “seen more people this weekend than I have in the last two years”.
Adrian, who was also interviewed by local BBC and ITV news crews, said: “He's enjoyed talking to the tradespeople, as he used to work in that industry.”
He added that maintaining the bungalow had become too much for his dad, and he needed help on tasks such as upgrading his central heating system and plumbing in the bathroom, putting new steps outside the front door (as the previous ones were a trip hazard), fixing the garage roof and changing the guttering.
By the time he was 18 years old in 1945, Tom was one week away from being called up to fight in the Second World War and instead helped build new council homes for returning war veterans. He worked on a site in Bentilee, Stoke-on-Trent, which at the time was the largest new council estate in the UK. During his 50-year career, Tom also repaired the brickwork inside bottle ovens that were used in the local pottery industry – this was a skill that few brickies were able to master.
Adrian contacted us after seeing the widespread news coverage of the home transformation carried out for Robert Lamb, a quantity surveyor from Solihull who was left paralysed after suffering a severe spinal cord injury when he fainted due to low blood pressure.
This was our 21st project and was only possible thanks to our community of fantastic volunteers and the support of major names within the construction industry, including DEWALT, Jewson, Talasey and Gibbs & Dandy.
Band of Builders Operations Director Tony Steel said: “This is a heart-warming story of a man who spent his 50-year career building thousands of homes for other families across Stoke-on-Trent and beyond – and it’s a great opportunity for our generation to help Tom to stay safe, warm and secure in the house he built.
“Tom’s project exemplifies the work of the Band of Builders community in completing practical projects to support members of the UK construction industry who are battling illness or injury. We have amazing backing from the industry, but every little bit helps, so if anyone wants to help in any way, we always welcome support – whether it’s financial, materials or anything else.”