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Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

101317 misfitsALBEMARLE — Misfits are on the loose at the Our Lady of the Annunciation Church in Albemarle, but instead of causing havoc and destruction, they are causing décor and construction. For the past 10 years, “The Misfits” have remodeled, redesigned and reinvented the entire parish rectory, dining hall, offices and chapel. The group of eight to 20 parishioners has worked tirelessly on everything from small projects, like repairing a leaking toilet, to huge undertakings such as remodeling the entire dining hall.

“We have done a lot of repairs and have saved thousands of dollars in labor cost. We have brought four buildings up to snuff. We do anything and everything that Father Fitz (Father Peter Fitzgibbons) needs us to do,” declares “head Misfit” Bob Miles.

“The whole thing started because I opened my big mouth!” Miles explains. “Father Fitz had some woodwork done behind the altar and my critical eye caught a couple of mistakes, and of course I had to say something. Well, adjustments were made and Father was clued in that I knew how to work on stuff.”

It was not long after that Miles’ services were in immediate need.

Church secretary Lori Storms recalls, “Mold was found in the rectory kitchen. Something needed to be done and fast. Father Fitz called Bob and asked if he could come and look. Bob started clearing out the mold – and then bats started invading.”

“It was one thing after the other – one thing got fixed and the next thing would fall apart. First, it was just me and Tom, then more followed, but the rectory was our first of many projects,” Miles says.

The group started meeting every week, and they soon became fast friends.

“Us guys were all hanging out and joking around, complaining about our aches and pains. My wife just looked us up and down, pointed at each of our ailments, saying, ‘Goodness! You got back problems, a bad knee, headaches, no legs, constant fatigue ... you all are just a bunch of misfits!’ The name stuck and caught on quick. The next week Father Fitz announced during Mass, ‘The Misfits have been formed.’”

PHOTO 2 MisfitsThe Misfits meet every Thursday. They start by attending Mass offered by Father Fitzgibbons and then, over coffee, they plan out the day by discussing projects with Father Fitzgibbons in the “Misfit Office” they designed.

“Father Fitz may not physically help but he helps mentally,” Miles says. “He is the commander-in-chief, along with Lori.”

The group works until about 5 o’clock while curious wives, kids and fellow parishioners stop by with food, drinks and conversation.

The Misfits now even have their own T-shirts – the men in gray shirts and the women in pink, blue or gray.

The Misfits’ handiwork can be seen everywhere. The communal kneelers, bought from Sacred Heart Church, were refurbished and installed by the Misfits. The church’s lanterns, which had to have the LED bulbs changed and the stained glass replaced, were fixed up by the Misfits. (“Older people do not have to use their reading glasses anymore; it is finally nice and bright,” jokes Misfit Tim Schumacher.)

The 2,000-pound baptismal font moved from the front of the church all the way to the back – the Misfits. Even the pews, which Storms claims “are stuck together by nails, glue and God’s mercy,” are kept up by the Misfits.

“We had to actually cut the communion rail because during a funeral people were not even able to walk around the casket,” recalls a fellow Misfit.

“The upper windows were about to fall out (of the dining hall) but nope, we got some ladders and put some metal reinforcements up there. It could have really been a disaster,” Miles adds.

Other calling cards have the Misfits’ signature such as the brightly decorated rooms, intricate tile formations and areas adorned with handmade paintings from parishioners and even Miles himself.

“I have been an artist by trade for the last 30 years, so we can’t help but add an artistic flare. I wanted to paint the dining hall yellow, but ‘Stump’ said turquoise is hot right now. The others agreed, and now we are looking at turquoise.”

In the renovated rectory kitchen Storms opens a small makeshift shelf. “This is a spice rack, but inside it is really covering up an electric box. The Misfits are inventive like that,” she smiles.

In the freshly “burnt amber” painted living room, a large abstract painting hangs over the fireplace. “That’s the work of Bob. He donates a lot of his abstract work as well. He is an incredible artist,” she notes.

Other projects include a grotto, landscaping on “The Hill,” a repaired roof, newly painted offices, replacement windows, LED lights, repaired bathrooms, and new lighted exit signs.

Parishioners love to point out and admire the Misfits’ work around the church.

“See that table over there,” says one parishioner, pointing to the table where Misfits and Father Fitzgibbons are gathered. “They redid the whole church. The whole thing, even that old rectory!”

“The big thing is the support of the parishioners. If it wasn’t for their generosity, this wouldn’t be possible. I count them as Misfits because even though they are not physically working here, they’re helping with their checkbooks,” Miles explains.

At this parish of less than 300 families, it is incredible how much money members are willing to give, he said. “For example, we had 35-year-old folding chairs in this hall, they were just falling apart. A parishioner replaced them all. Now the hall has up-to-date chairs. We also had a lady ask if we needed anything. We said a pizza oven. She ended up buying a pizza oven for our dining hall. It’s unbelievable.”

Schumacher has been a Misfit for two years, David Alzala, two, and “Stump” for about three. On a recent day, their mission is to tile the dining hall kitchen, but they stop for a brief break to explain what it means to them to be a Misfit.

The Misfits “keep stuff light,” “learn from one another,” and “never know what is going to come next,” they agree.

101317 misfits3“I do this mostly for the pay,” jokes Schumacher. (There is no pay.)

“Why do I do this? I don’t even know anymore – maybe out of habit, maybe because I like the adventure,” another Misfit half-jokingly contemplates.

“I do it for the experience. I just re-tiled my floor at home and actually knew what I was doing because of this place. I learn so much from these guys,” responds Alzala.

“I wouldn’t do this for no office or laundromat. I do this because it is God’s house and I figure if Father Fitz can help save our souls, we can help save God’s house,” adds Miles.

Whatever the motivation, these Misfits are not going anywhere except to work on Thursdays at Our Lady of the Annunciation Church. “Except if Father Fitz retires, we will stay around as long as he does,” jokes Miles.
In the meantime, parishioners and Father Fitzgibbons are very proud of their Misfits and are excited to see what these remodeling miracle-workers will tackle next.
— Lisa Geraci, Correspondent