Mathiowetz Construction and the Mathiowetz family have 55 year history of helping people in Guatemala.
When the great earthquake of 1976 erupted in Guatemala, the late Richard Mathiowetz witnessed the devastation of the area’s residents as they lost their homes to the natural disaster. With a group led by Fr. Greg Schaffer, Mathiowetz helped repair the damage and saw a large need to improve the quality of life in Guatemala. Mathiowetz and Fr. Schaffer then established a partnership together through the Friends of San Lucas Mission, and the partnership has been passed down two generations since. Although Fr. Schaffer passed away in 2011, Richard’s son Brian continues to serve on the board for the Friends of San Lucas Mission.
“House funding has been something we’ve been pushing the last five years,” said Brett Mathiowetz, grandson to Richard and son to Brian. He explained that families affected by tragedy can apply to qualify for the housing Mathiowetz Construction funds. “There are people involved in the selection process who know the back stories and get a feeling where [the applicants] are at.”
Brian explained that once it’s sorted out that the selected family has a clean title on a piece of land, they go into the Friends of San Lucas Mission program. He said they want to avoid applicants who are well-informed of the organization, but deceptive about their circumstances. Families who are considered might have a handicapped child, a widowed parent, or some reason why the breadwinner can’t afford housing expenses. “We accept the decisions of the people of San Lucas,” said Brian.
Most recently, Brian and Brett flew to Guatemala in January with a group that included Paul Anderson and his kids, Jordan and Tori. They stayed in local housing for a week and began the footing of the first house. Other volunteer groups, many including college kids on their J-term breaks, offered assistance as well.
Originally, the families live in cornstalk huts with roofs that leak. The $12,000 homes the program builds have concrete floors so they can be passed down. Brian said it’s amazing to see the look in the peoples’ eyes when they see their finished houses. “An elderly man didn’t know what the key was for. He had never seen a lock, so we had to show him how to use it,” said Brian.
Other houses the Friends of San Lucas build are temporary homes about the size of fish houses. “People don’t always know who owns the land,” said Brian. In those circumstance, he explained it’s better to build temporary homes in case a family is asked to leave.
“Government corruption in Guatemala is off the charts,” said Brian. “We can’t grasp the problems and how they suffer, so we bring hope where we can.”
Brett’s wife, Laurie, plans to bring a group down to Guatemala this coming January to continue the efforts of the Friends of San Lucas Mission. “Anyone can go along if they have a big heart and the ability to raise funds,” said Brian. He said Chuck Spaeth Ford contributes to the funding with the money they earn selling coffee at their business. The program’s website, sanlucasmission.org, also lists sponsorship options as well as a donation link.
“Fifty-five years later, we’re still doing our best to help,” said Brian. “It’s a pretty humbling experience.”