Erica Hammel and her son, 6-year-old Wyatt Rewoldt, stand in front of their new home July 2.

Erica Hammel and her son, 6-year-old Wyatt Rewoldt, stand in front of their new home July 2.

Photo by Deb Jacques

A fresh start in the ‘House of Hope’ in St. Clair Shores

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published July 5, 2019

 The Rev. Jeff Allan, chaplain at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak and a cousin of Hammel, prays in front of the new home.

The Rev. Jeff Allan, chaplain at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak and a cousin of Hammel, prays in front of the new home.

Photo by Deb Jacques


ST. CLAIR SHORES — With a triumphant exclamation — “I cut seven times!” — 6-year-old Wyatt Rewoldt helped christen his brand-new home on Joan Street with a ribbon cutting and a house blessing.

Paid for with donations raised by the Optimist Club of St. Clair Shores, private donors and in-kind donations from a slew of local contractors, the “House of Hope,” as it has been called, is finally completed, nearly a year after Wyatt and his mother, Erica Hammel, moved out of their old dilapidated house.

Hammel said that she doesn’t know how she could ever repay the generosity of those who helped build and pay for the home.

“Not everybody in life gets an opportunity at a fresh slate,” she said. The Optimists, she added, have “forever changed our lives.”

The “House of Hope” was constructed for Hammel and her son, thanks to Jim and Maureen Wark, of Clinton Township, and the Optimist Club of St. Clair Shores. Maureen Wark came to know Hammel through the Optimists after Hammel was recognized for her work to promote legislation to protect children from child abusers.

Hammel has been working with state lawmakers to get a package of bills termed Wyatt’s Law passed in Michigan to create a child abuse offender registry, requiring those convicted of first- through third-degree child abuse to register for 10 years, and fourth-degree child abusers to register for five years. It would create penalties for those who don’t register or update their information.

The bills passed the state Senate in December during the lame duck session, and now have been to new lawmakers for the third time.

“All I can do is pay it forward, keep fighting for Wyatt’s Law,” Hammel said.

The Optimist Club of St. Clair Shores raised more than $22,000 toward the new home for Hammel and Wyatt through an online campaign and with the help of other civic organizations, school and church groups, and hundreds of residents.

The three-bedroom, two-bath ranch has a two-car detached garage and an open floor plan. It has been completely furnished as well.

“We were very fortunate to have so many contractors donate their time and their materials,” Maureen Wark said.

Jim Wark’s business, J Works Building Co., began construction on the house right after Labor Day 2018 after obtaining all of the necessary permits over the summer.

“We’re happy to give Erica and Wyatt a fresh start,” Maureen Wark said. “Her old house was filled with chaos. The two of them will be so much better having a brand-new house without the memories of the past, without all the work that needed to be done.”

Hammel and her ex-husband had bought the “fixer-upper” farmhouse-style abode when it was in foreclosure more than a decade ago. He had begun renovations, knocking out a wall in the kitchen and tearing down the dining room ceiling, but left the family before the projects were completed.

It was later that year that Wyatt was abused by his father’s girlfriend when he was 1 year old. He was taken to the hospital with a fractured skull and bleeding on the brain while he was in her custody.

The old house wasn’t conducive for life with Wyatt, who has vision problems. Hammel didn’t spend the night in her own bedroom once he returned from the hospital because it was on the second floor of the house, while Wyatt’s bedroom was on the first floor. There were extension cords stretching across the kitchen because of a lack of electrical wiring, as well as stairs and other obstacles that weren’t safe for Wyatt.

Jim Wark said he was happy that he and his wife were able to help Hammel with the assistance of so many others.

“They’re good people. They needed a break,” he said. “We just happened to be there at the right time.”

Hammel said that she and Wyatt planned to move into the new house the weekend of July 5, after press time.

“I feel like my life has just begun,” she said. “To be able to start fresh and clean is amazing.”

Wyatt, who will start in first grade at his school through the Macomb Intermediate School District in the fall, is very excited for the new house and all the space to run around, Hammel said.

Donations included appliances and installation donated by Hurst Appliance; flooring by Service Floor Covering; cabinets and installation, plus landscaping materials, by Rich-Wall Custom Cabinetry; countertops and installation by Granite Creations; electrical fixtures and labor by MS Electrical Contractors; heating and air-conditioning units by Synergy Energy Solutions; tile material and labor by City Councilman Pete Accica; painting material and labor by Finazzo Painting; design drawing by Erik Heiderer, of Polyarch; brickwork labor by H. Burgett Construction; insulation and labor by Hagen Insulation; concrete labor by Mike Zoratti and John Dipace; landscape labor by Detroit Irrigation and Lighting; and heating and cooling labor by Shutter Heating and Cooling.