A house is being constructed on Joan Street for Erica Hammel and her son.

A house is being constructed on Joan Street for Erica Hammel and her son.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

‘Wyatt’s House of Hope’ nearing completion in St. Clair Shores

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

 Painter Joe Finazzo works on the kitchen April 3.

Painter Joe Finazzo works on the kitchen April 3.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske


ST. CLAIR SHORES — A lot has changed for Erica Hammel in five years.

Her son was abused by her ex-husband’s girlfriend, a convicted child abuser. She has worked with legislators for years to get laws passed to protect children from convicted abusers. She has raised a small son with a host of challenges from the abuse inflicted upon him.

And now, she and her son are about to be the recipients of a brand-new house constructed just for them in St. Clair Shores.

“They truly have given Wyatt and I a brand-new start. I’m going to have a kitchen I can actually cook in. I haven’t slept in a bed in almost five years, so it will be so nice,” Hammel said.

“Wyatt’s House of Hope” is being constructed for Hammel and her son, Wyatt Rewoldt, thanks to Jim and Maureen Wark and the Optimist Club of St. Clair Shores. Maureen was inspired to help when she visited Hammel at her home and found the Joan Street house in shambles around her. Hammel and her ex-husband had bought the “fixer-upper” farmhouse-style abode when it was in foreclosure. He had begun renovations, knocking out a wall in the kitchen and tearing down the dining room ceiling, but left before the projects were completed.

The house also 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.

Construction began on the house in the fall of 2018. With help from donors that have supplied work and supplies, Wark said that they hope to finish construction by the end of April, weather permitting.

“It’s really nice. It’s not your standard St. Clair Shores ranch. It is like a little mini custom home,” she said.

The one-story brick home has three bedrooms; two bathrooms; an open floor plan for the kitchen, dining and living rooms; a first-floor laundry; a basement; and a detached garage.

Hammel said that she’s in disbelief at the beautiful home that has been built for her. From the kitchen cabinets to the flooring, “It really leaves me speechless,” she said.

“Jim and Maureen, they not only kept their promise — which I knew they would — but they went above and beyond anything I could dream of,” she said.

The sun-filled home has a white and neutral color palette, just as Hammel wanted. Wark said that it reminds her of the clean, fresh start they’re giving Hammel and Wyatt.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Hammel has been working with state lawmakers to get a package of bills termed “Wyatt’s Law” passed in Michigan. The laws would create a child abuse offender registry, require those convicted of first- through third-degree child abuse to register for 10 years, and require 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 in the lame duck session, but now have to be reintroduced in both houses to the new lawmakers.

Hammel said that she’s confident they’ll have better luck with this legislative session.

“I feel this will be our year,” she said. “I always say, if it takes me 20 years, it takes me 20 years. I’m never going to stop.”

Along with lawmakers, Hammel is working with Christyne Kadlitz, the mother of the other boy abused by the same woman before Wyatt. The bills will be reintroduced to the state Legislature this month.

But while that winds its way through the legislative process, she and Wyatt will be enjoying their new home. Hammel said that what is being built is so much more than she ever expected.

Wark said they still have to build the garage, pour cement for the driveway and porch, install appliances and shop for furniture.

The Optimist Club of St. Clair Shores is accepting donations for the home at www.gofundme.com/new-home-for-wyatt-the-warrior.

Donors to the project include City Councilman Pete Accica, who donated all the tile and installed it, as well, and Joe Finazzo, who donated paint and his time to paint the entire house, which was constructed by Jim Wark’s company, J. Works Building Company.

“I wanted her to feel like she could breathe and it would be a healthy place for them to live so, yeah, we achieved it,” Maureen Wark said.