‘Miracle of Hatfield’: With assist from volunteers, veteran will get extra time to restore condemned residence

HATFIELD – George W. Emeny’s estate is supported by dozens of volunteers and several regional contractors who donate time, labor, and materials.

So much has been done on the Emeny property on West Street that the health department wants to give him more time to do it. One day before a hearing in a housing court to determine whether Emeny’s house should be convicted, the chamber is now asking the court to extend it by 60 days.

Charles Kaniecki, the city’s health officer, said he inspected the property earlier this week. Much remains to be done, but he felt that progress so far warranted the city to support an expansion.

“It shows in good faith that the current violations are being corrected,” he said.

Emeny, an 86-year-old veteran and retired teacher from Springfield Public Schools, has been sleeping in his car since January when the city declared his home “unsuitable for human habitation.” The house had no warmth or running water, and it was lifelong clutter.

After he could no longer sleep in his bed, Emeny began bundling up with his dog and cat in his driveway every night.

News of an elderly veteran living this way sparked an outpouring of people wanting to help. Dozens of volunteers helped clean the house, taking truckloads after truckloads of trash and metal for disposal and recycling.

George Emeny speaks to volunteers outside his home on Wednesday. Patrick Johnson / The Republican

A total of 21 building contractors from western Massachusetts are volunteering to rebuild the house from foundation to roof. Bub’s Bar-BQ in Sunderland donated a camper that he sleeps in every night instead of his car.

“They don’t play around,” Emeny said of the volunteers. “To me, it’s like the Hatfield miracle.”

Emeny’s attorney M. Trant Campbell said he was contacted by prosecutor Thomas A. Mullen about the Department of Health’s application for an extension. Both lawyers have submitted a joint application to the housing court for an extension. At 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Campbell said he hadn’t heard from the court.

He said if he didn’t hear from the court by the end of the day, he would attend the scheduled hearing on Thursday at 9:00 a.m. to file the motion.

He said he doesn’t understand why the court would refuse as both sides agree.

Kaniecki, a health agent for 40 years, said he had seen many homes in worse shape than Emenys. In Emeny’s case, the difference was the number of people – many of whom were strangers – willing to meddle and help.

“This is a rarity when these people come together to help the individual,” he said. “It definitely helps (Emeny) with his physical and mental wellbeing. He knows now that he is not alone. “

The volunteers “are basically building him a one-bedroom cottage that he’s comfortable and safe in,” said Kaniecki, adding, “That’s excellent.”


At Emeny’s Wednesday, much of the clutter that had packed inside and spilled onto the lawn had been removed. The rooms were reduced to the studs in the walls, and people worked on the plumbing and electrical systems.

Jessica Moody of South Deerfield said there are plans for a new roof, foundation and heating system. She said it would have been cheaper to loot what’s there and build something new – but Emeny wouldn’t hear about it.

“George holds this place close and dear to his heart,” she said. “He didn’t want a new home; He just wants to be able to make the changes to get back on track. “

Moody and her husband were so touched by Emeny’s plight that they tried to help him, even though they did not know him. Her husband, Richard Moody of R. Moody Machine and Fabrication, offered to work on the property and reached out to other contractors to see if they would do the same.

Jessica Moody became the unofficial project manager and led dozen of contractors on the cleanup and restoration work.

She said one of the reasons so many people volunteered is because Emeny’s role as a teacher, flight instructor, and neighbor had a positive impact on many throughout his life.

“George was a good man in his life and he would help anyone in need,” she said. “And now all the people who knew him happened to drop by to do the favor.”

Volunteers help renovate the Hatfield veteran's home

Workers are installing baseboard heating in Emeny’s house on Wednesday. Patrick Johnson / The Republican

The volunteer list on Wednesday included employees from Western Mass. Heating Cooling, who did the installation, as well as electricians from Palmeri Electric of Shelburne and ML Schmitt of Springfield.

“You never see us in the same job,” said Jean Pierre Crevier, Vice President of ML Schmitt, of the two companies. “We both managed to compete. This is bigger than us; It’s more of a good reason to help someone. “

With the exception of the electrical panel, which is still in good condition, it will replace the rest of the electrical system from ceiling lights to power outlets. Such a job would typically cost $ 10,000 – but the companies donate manpower and materials.

Crevier lives in Hatfield and has passed Emeny’s house hundreds of times. But he said he thought it was a storage shed and not someone’s home. He was surprised to learn of Emeny’s problem and decided to help.

“I grew up in a city where everyone knew their neighbor,” he said. “My feeling is that this is how life is now.”

It is uplifting that so many people are coming out to help, he said, adding, “Perhaps the pandemic has something to do with everyone looking back, slowing down a little and realizing that there is more to the world than just themselves.” . “

H told Emeny that once the job is done, he won’t be done with him.

“I told him to be careful because I live on the other side of town,” he said. “I’ll stop by to check on him all the time.”

Moody said she heard from several people who plan to come back to Emeny on a regular basis once the house is restored.

“There will be research to see that this will never happen again because he has no family,” she said. “He still had no one to ask for help.”

Related content:

  • “An 86 year old man who lives in the car?”: While the Hatfield veteran struggles to stay in a condemned house, the neighbors say, “We had to help