Ministry’s new approach to demolition reduces concerns about lead and other dust

Marc Canton, who has been a client at the Fort Wayne Rescue Mission, stacks insulation as he helped deconstruct a home recently as part of a job experience program developed by SDG, a new for-profit ministry in Fort Wayne that has begun demolishing homes piece by piece to salvage and recycle as much of the home as possible. (By Kevin Kilbane of
Chris Phillips works on taking apart the upstairs of a home scheduled for demolition. The new for-profit ministry SDG uses a process called deconstruction to take down homes piece by piece so it can salvage and recycle as much of the home as possible and also employ more people seeking to develop job experience. (By Kevin Kilbane of
Wiring and metal parts wait in piles to be taken for recycling after being removed from a home the new for-profit ministry SDG was demolishing using an approach called deconstruction. The goal is to take the home apart piece by piece and to salvage and recycle as much of the house as possible. (By Kevin Kilbane of

A relatively new Fort Wayne ministry could reduce concerns about lead dust and other problems by demolishing homes piece by piece as it helps people build up their lives.

“I think it is a huge opportunity” and possibly the future of demolition, said Tom Heil, whose wife, Carole, is the president and owner of the for-profit ministry, SDG.

The ministry, which works in partnership with Associated Churches of Fort Wayne and Allen County, takes its name from the Latin phrase “Soli Deo Gloria,” or “All Glory Goes to God,” Tom Heil said.

SDG has started doing home deconstruction, which involves demolishing a house by taking it apart and recycling and re-using as much of the structure as possible, said Heil, who works as Associated Churches’ spiritual outreach director.

He and his wife also work together on a Christ-centered, teen recovery program through Associated Churches, he said.

SDG helps former criminal offenders rebuild their lives by providing job experience and helping them overcome barriers to employment, Tom Heil said.

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The ministry started in April 2017 and officially was incorporated Jan. 22, 2018. They began by working for the Allen County Building Department and Allen County Community Development Corporation to pick up trash and mow county-owned lots and remove trash from abandoned houses.

SDG since has moved into building deconstruction, which is being done in some other cities, Heil said. They started with a mobile home and a dilapidated house, and now are bidding on other demolition projects.

The typical home demolition using an excavator likely would produce enough debris to fill four large dumpsters, Heil said. With deconstruction, they hope to cut the waste to one dumpster.

It’s also a more-gradual process.

“You probably can tear this house down in three days with an excavator, but you are not saving anything and you are not putting as many people to work,” he said recently at the site of their house deconstruction in a suburban Fort Wayne neighborhood.

Standing water in the home’s basement created serious mold problems that led to the home’s demolition.

Using hammers and pry bars, three men — including one long-term client of the Fort Wayne Rescue Mission — slowly took apart upstairs rooms. They save everything they can, Heil said, such as doors, door frames, countertops, insulation, a wooden deck and more. Another man was working outside.

Certain materials, such as some metal and wiring, will be taken to a recycling operation, Heil said. He and his wife hope other salvaged items can be used to renovate homes that eventually could be owned by program participants.

Regarding the prevention of lead and other dust, SDG’s crew works from the inside out, meaning dust is contained inside the house until they begin tearing down the exterior walls, Heil said. They cut holes in the floors and drop waste material through the holes into the basement, where it will be removed at the end of the project.

The work is coordinated by volunteer Mike Burns, a journeyman carpenter and licensed contractor who has a residential builders license, Heil said. Burns works on a four-day week schedule at his full-time construction industry job, which gives him time to help SDG on his days off.