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Craftsmen for Christ receive $15,000 grant from Wal-Mart
From fences blown down to just lending a sympathetic ear, Bob Ouzts put only one condition on the assistance of volunteers in the Yuba City-based group: A moment for prayer first.
Craftsmen for Christ, as they are called, want to build their faith, their communities and their network, in addition to the wheelchair ramps and other good deeds more suggested by their name.
A grant this week from Wal-Mart for $15,000 — one of only 150 groups to receive the money nationwide — will be a big boost toward those goals, said Ouzts, a pastor who founded the group in Yuba City.
"We'll use a little bit in every aspect where we're serving," said Ouzts, after volunteers packed cereal in plastic bags on Thursday to include in food boxes for the needy. "We've been in a lot of prayer about donations, and we consider this a real blessing."
Craftsmen for Christ began out of a friendship between Ouzts and John Willhoff in the late 1980s, when the two men embraced Christianity when Willhoff's health began to fail.
Established in Davis, the group spread to chapters in Yuba City and Rocklin, and assisted in relief efforts both in 1997 floods in Arboga and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
These days, Ouzts said, the "craftsmen" name is something of a misnomer, as among the group's 200 to 300 volunteers are people from both genders and a variety of professions.
Craftsmen for Christ's most noticeable work is probably the 100 to 150 wheelchair ramps volunteers build for people in need in Yuba-Sutter annually, he said.
"But we get all kinds of requests," he said. "From a fence that blew over to someone who just needs someone to talk to."
Once, the group even raised money for a circumcision, Ouzts said, though he still hasn't had the opportunity to use skills from his past working life as a steam pipe fitter.
"What we really desire is a relationship with people," he said. "The best part is really when they get excited after we've helped them out and then they want to help."
After supporters nominated Craftsmen for Christ through Facebook, Wal-Mart chose them out of more than 24,000 such groups nationally. Wal-Mart is awarding $1.5 million in grants every day for the 12 days leading up to Christmas.