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Brashinger: Operation Nehemiah dedicated to helping the needy

Chris GoodsHomer Glen Nancy Rob Lach Moken(left right) are members OperatiNehemiah: His Hands Work.  |  Ginger Brashinger/For Sun-Times

Chris Goodson, of Homer Glen, and Nancy and Rob Lach, of Mokena, (left to right) are members of Operation Nehemiah: His Hands at Work. | Ginger Brashinger/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 10, 2014 6:10AM



Operation Nehemiah: His Hands at Work — a nonprofit faith-based ministry of volunteers who build, repair and rebuild for those in need — hopes to build its ministry.

About four years ago, Rob Lach, 52, of Mokena, brought the idea for Operation Nehemiah to members of New Life Church in New Lenox where he and his wife, Nancy, 41, and their children — Nathan, 12, Anthony, 8, and Isabella, 5 — are members.

Lach participated in the church’s disaster relief missions and ShareFest, a national event in which churches in a specific area work together for a weekend providing various services to improve the community.

But it wasn’t until he was put in charge of New Life’s service projects for a ShareFest that a “seed was planted,” he said.

“During that weekend, I was thinking that people are in need all the time,” Lach said, adding that his participation in a subsequent disaster relief effort in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, sealed the deal.

As the owner of a construction company, North Creek Builders, in Lynwood, Lach felt he had the knowledge and the resources to make an organization such as Operation Nehemiah work. He and his wife invested in a cargo trailer to haul the necessary tools and equipment to construction sites, and Lach talked to church members about getting the nonprofit started.

It incorporated nearly four years ago and a board of four members — New Life Pastor Roger Visker and church members Ken Dekker, Steve Huizinga and Marika Gartman — has been operating ever since.

Lach said he chose the name Operation Nehemiah for the biblical Nehemiah, who rebuilds the damaged walls of Jerusalem by bringing people together to make repairs.

Lach said New Life Church members have volunteered their time, talents and dollars for a number of service projects. Hands of Hope, Lambs’ Fold, Guardian Angel Community Services and Shepherds’ House are some of the nonprofit organizations that have benefited from Operation Nehemiah.

“That’s how it began,” Nancy Lach said. “Those were the key projects at first, but then residential needs were coming up.”

Because Operation Nehemiah has relied so heavily on New Life Church members, Rob Lach said it’s reaching out to other churches, groups and individuals to join its efforts.

“The vision is constantly growing,” Nancy said. “More and more, it is not just related to church members. The church takes care of the church. We want to take care of the community. There are so many needs out there.”

Her husband said they do not want to “burn out” those who continually help.

“That’s (the volunteer base) one of the things we’d like to expand,” he said. “There are times I’ve almost had to cancel trips because of a lack of response. We don’t want to be totally dependent on (New Life) guys.”

Lach said a New Life Church member, Chris Goodson, is a perfect example of someone who’s always there for the group, someone he described as the “No. 1 key guy” who never says “no” despite owning a business and having a family. Goodson, 38, and his wife, Patti, have a 5-year-old daughter and are expecting a second child in June.

Goodson, who owns CMG Construction, in Lockport, said meeting Lach through church was the initial reason he became involved with Operation Nehemiah, but he has embraced the volunteer work for a different reason.

“I feel I’m really, really blessed,” he said.

Nancy said there are definitely “challenges” for the families involved in Operation Nehemiah because of the commitment involved, but “it doesn’t take long to remember that it’s not about us. It’s God-led.”

A Operation Nehemiah disaster relief effort for which the organization could use volunteers is scheduled for May in tiny Brookport in southern Illinois, where clean-up and rebuilding continues for families who have no insurance and lost their homes in the November tornadoes.

Visit www.nehemiahshands.org for volunteer forms and contact information for Operation Nehemiah.



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