Building The Future

Jim Mock, from Bayonne, volunteers for Rebuilding Together in Jersey City.

Photo by John Emerson.

Jim Mock is one of those guys who always says yes when someone needs a hand. In 1992, the journeyman carpenter rose to the occasion when a group called Christmas in April was enlisting local tradespeople to rehabilitate homes in Jersey City. He quickly became the group’s all-trades coordinator, and Christmas in April became Rebuilding Together Jersey City—one of more than 200 chapters of a national nonprofit that organizes corporate sponsors and workers for a one-day makeover marathon in April.

Mock, 57, inspects the homes to assess the job, handles prep work, and assigns some 600 people—volunteers and skilled laborers—for the big day. “Extreme Makeover?” says Mock. “Speed that up three times.”

A straight-shooting, blue-collar Bayonne native, he is perfectly suited for the position and is often the one homeowners bond with and even bake the occasional sweet potato pie for. “Coming from a city area helps you blend in and understand these people,” says fellow volunteer Manny Espinoza. “He definitely connects with them.”

“In 99 percent of cases, it’s the women in the urban areas who are holding it together,” says Mock. “They are great role models. Their faith is incredible.” Raised by a single mother himself, Mock knows their struggles. “It had to be difficult for these homeowners to ask for help, and I’ve seen their circumstances. We can help them keep their dignity and hold onto their home.”

In addition to his work with RTJC, Mock marches in Bayonne’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, is a youth sports coach, and organizes his union’s Christmas party (and plays a certain man in red). He’s also a family man; his three granddaughters “have him wrapped around their fingers” and he’s been married to his wife, Ellen, for 40 years. “I’ve got to fix our doorbell,” says Mock. “Ever heard of the shoemaker whose kids had holes in their shoes? She’s asking when we’re going to expand to Bayonne.

“My friends tell me I’ve got to slow down, but I can’t leave this go,” says Mock. “I do it for selfish reasons: I like the way it makes me feel.”

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