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Contractor builds career around faith

Scott Jager describes his non-profit organization as "a Bible-believing, disaster and life-changing relief team."

Indeed, that is what his Christian Contractors Association is all about _ helping the needy.

His mission is to help all in need and to share his faith in Christ when given the opportunity.

In 1979, Jager founded Jager Construction Co., a custom home builder, in Charleston, S.C. He also began helping needy people with home repairs.

For 10 years, the 36-year-old husband and father of three juggled his for-profit and non-profit organizations while networking with Christian contractors in different areas of the country.

In 1989, Hurricane Hugo came along and tore the life out of coastal South Carolina. This is when, Jager believes, God began changing the course of his life.

After spending three weeks supervising high school students who were helping victims of Hugo, Jager returned to his home in Vermont. Shortly after that, a representative of some Charleston churches asked him to come back because hurricane victims were having difficulty obtaining help from honest contractors.

During this period, Jager was building custom homes in South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Vermont. He also was shoveling snow for widows, mending the roofs of the needy and helping wherever he was needed.

He even formed a lumber company so he would always have materials.

The proceeds from these companies were making it possible to fund his part-time ministry.

In the fall of 1992, Hurricane Andrew devastated Homestead, which Jager saw as another step in God's plan for his life. Having a grandmother in Homestead, Jager was familiar with the town and left immediately to help.

After rebuilding his grandmother's home, he went on to help other victims. He worked on his grandmother's church and repaired the homes of some of its members.

Throughout, Jager has networked with other Christian contractors and has accumulated a log of volunteers throughout the country who can be called on: social workers, cooks, clerical workers, roofers and carpenters.

Jager bases his ministry on scripture. He cites 1 Peter 4:10, which reads in part, "As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace."

He also cites Colossians 3:23-24, "Whatever your task, work heartily at serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance."

Last year, Jager said, "Scripture came alive for me and a light came on with what God wanted me to do."

That meant going full time into ministry.

"I went cold turkey, sold the business, the hardware store, the building and pulled out of everything," Jager said. He donated all the equipment to the ministry.

Jager's wife, Sue, said divesting themselves of all moneymaking interests after 15 years of marriage "was a little scary, but we felt it was something we needed to do. We were trusting God that things would work out."

"So far it has, and we have helped a lot of people," she said.

Both are members of Northcliffe Baptist Church in Spring Hill, where Mrs. Jager plays with the hand-bell choir.

She also does the paperwork for the association, answers the phone and pays the bills. Their three children keep her pretty close to home, although she has traveled with her husband a few times.

The Jagers moved to Brooksville about a year ago, when her parents retired and moved here.

William Hopkins, Sue's father and a retired Baptist minister, said Jager has always been someone he has admired.

"He has this vision to make this (ministry) almost nationwide. It's a marvelous thing. . . . He's totally depending on God to provide everything he needs, including support for his own family," Hopkins said. "It's a total faith ministry."

Hopkins said he has seen many people in Hernando County whom Scott has helped, "people who are needy and just can't get the help any other way."

The 59-year-old grandfather also admires his daughter for her support. "Susan has a lot of faith in the Lord," he said.

Juanita Arnold is one of the Hernando County residents who recently has been helped by Jager. She said her front porch was torn off during the 1993 no-name storm.

"Scott fixed it," she said.

Arnold said Jager also repaired a gaping hole in the bedroom of her mobile home and fixed her leaking roof.

"He's a terrific person. He'll do anything for anybody and never ask for compensation," the 66-year-old widow said. "If I ever get a chance to help him, I will help him."

The Revs. Tony Mullane and John Cooper are also grateful for Jager's help after Hurricane Georges. Both have churches in Big Pine Key.

Cooper is the pastor of Lord of the Seas Lutheran Church. He said Jager brought a crew and restored the screened walls on the church, which is open to the air.

They also worked on many homes in the area, mainly those that had lost roofs.

"He did excellent work and is a wonderful fellow," Cooper said. "I couldn't speak more highly of him."

Mullane agreed. The rector of St. Peter Catholic Church said Jager and a crew worked for 10 days after the storm swept over the area in the fall. "He is an incredibly hard-working and generous man," Mullane said.

"He worked on 68 homes, cut trees away and did temporary repairs on roofs to make them habitable _ at no charge" Mullane said. "The neat thing about it is he's not a guy that goes around preaching about it. He does by example rather than by word.

"It would be great if there were a lot more Scott Jagers around; it would be Christmas every day."