A team of volunteer builders from across the UK are set to descend on Stoke-on-Trent to help repair the home of a 93-year-old former bricklayer with cancer who can no longer maintain the bungalow he built himself in 1970.
Tom Knapper from Bucknall 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 to Band of Builders – a registered charity that completes practical projects to help members of the UK construction industry who are battling illness or injury.
The charity is mobilising a team of tradespeople to carry out the work over the weekend of 11th and 12th December, making a series of repairs and improvements to the family home that Tom built for his late wife June and their three children. Tom lost his wife a couple of months before the outbreak of the Covid-19 epidemic and has found living alone in isolation very difficult.
Tom’s son Adrian said that maintaining the bungalow has become too much for his dad, who is very excited to roll back the years and talk to all the tradespeople who have volunteered for this project as they carry out tasks such as upgrading his central heating system and plumbing in the bathroom, putting new steps outside the front door (as the current ones are a trip hazard), fixing the garage roof and changing the guttering.
“My father’s house is his pride and joy because he built it for his family. Despite his willingness to do it, the essential repairs needed are now beyond him and he needs help, especially as he is not in the best of health,” said Adrian.
“The thing he’s looking forward to the most is chatting with the team of tradespeople – because he has really missed the camaraderie on a building site since he retired.”
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 Band of Builders 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.
Band of Builders is a registered charity that completes practical projects to help members of the UK construction industry who are battling illness or injury. The charity is backed by major names within the construction industry, including DeWalt, Jewson, Talasey and Gibbs & Dandy.
This will be the 21st project to date for the charity, which has more than 10,000 supporters from across the construction industry.
Tom’s project comes hot on the heels of a project in North Wales where more than 70 volunteer tradespeople completely revamped the ground floor of the home of Cher Little, a mum of two and partner of Mark, a plasterer. She was left relying on a wheelchair after having her legs amputated due to contracting meningococcal septicaemia – a rare and often fatal bloodstream infection.
Band of Builders Operations Director Tony Steel said: “This is a heart-warming story of a man who has 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. Anyone who wants to get involved can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.”