The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

March 11, 2014

Providing a helping hand

By Austin Wells
Herald-Banner Staff

QUINLAN — A mailbox decorated with Wisconsin license plates reading “Feases” makes it pretty clear who owns the quaint little one-story house on Kathy Lynn Place in Quinlan. The neat, horizontal row of University of Wisconsin-Madison and Milwaukee Brewers logos showcase the hometown pride of John Fease, the man whose handiwork has been helping to remodel the small community one house at a time out of his own pocketbook.

The plan to help rebuild Quinlan did not form from a spontaneous decision of John and his wife Barbara. The former pulpit minister already had plenty of experience doing carpentry work for his church in Kenosha, Wis.

When they decided to move to Texas to be closer to their grandchildren, the couple simply brought their carpentry missionary work with them.

“I’m much better as a pastor working in people’s homes,” John said.

Since arriving in Quinlan three years ago, John and Barbara have remodeled at least a dozen houses in the community, with the majority of their supplies being funded from their own savings. John said he has spent at least $100,000 of his own money since moving to Quinlan and starting his missionary work.

But homes were not the only priority for John. After driving through the center of town and seeing weeds growing out of the cracks in the sidewalks and up along the buildings, he decided the time had come to clean up the city’s image.

On a Saturday morning, John went to work with a weed eater, a blower and a couple of garbage cans, cutting the grass and the weeds.

“No one said anything because I think they had thought the city had hired a guy to clean it all up,” John said.

Two weeks later, John made a deal with some store owners downtown that if they helped him buy Round-Up, he would keep the sidewalks weed-free. John extended his voluntary mowing services to other parts around town, and eventually his willingness and passion for giving the city a cleaner image helped others want to become more involved in his work.

John has also been using his carpentry skills to rebuild and remodel homes throughout the community, using the money the inheritance from his mom’s passing to fund the supplies he used when he first started remodeling.

Of course, he said that knowing where to get started on a project can be very tricky.

“I’ve walked into places and I’ve thought, let’s just get rid of it,” he said. “But since I can’t really do that for the sake of the homeowner, let’s make it the best we can.”

John has worked in homes requiring all manner of repairs, including a house with a leaky roof and a house with only dirt for flooring. In addition to the routine carpentry work, John said he also provides electrical and plumbing services, skills he picked up working as the go-to carpenter for a wildlife resort he owned in Wisconsin.

“If a building was going to be remodeled, I was the one who was going to do it,” he said.

The Feases’ voluntary work in the Quinlan community caught the eye of another group hoping to make a positive impact on the county. The National Honor Society of Ford High School approached John and Barbara and offered to help them with their projects.

The National Honor Society will join John and Barbara to help a local woman who cannot afford to clear the rubble out of the yard of her recently burned-down home. Clearing the rubble will help the woman get home insurance for the newly-remodeled two-story home she currently lives in, keeping in line with the pay-it-forward theme of the Feases’ missionary work.

John said he hopes to continue his work until he is physically unable to do it.

“My hope is that I tip over fixing someone’s house,” he joked.

“I don’t hope that,” John’s 13-year-old granddaughter, Ingrid, who volunteers alongside her grandparents, said.

John said that if he could summarize the importance of his work in Quinlan into a sermon, the main message would be that helping others would in turn bring more blessings into one’s life, and bring more peace and joy into the world.

“Jesus really meant that if our hearts would break for other people, if we are seekers of peace, if we really love our neighbors, we will be blessed,” he said.