Reclaiming Barns, Beauty and Lives.

Bobby Williams, Rupert Boneham and Jason Schoeff

“The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But … the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

Every morning when I wake up, I wonder what is in store for me that day. Here at BGW Construction we say we are Dream Builders – and I take no greater pleasure than to believe it’s not just our clients whose dreams are realized – it’s ours, too. I love that my days can be filled with surprises – just like the surprise experience I had on Wednesday, September 28th as we worked reclaiming barns.

Let me begin at the beginning…

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A few weeks prior to that day, I received a call from Jeremy Riddell, a lifelong friend who is passionate about barn restoration. In fact, it was Jeremy who got me into barn reclamation in the first place. He inspired me to start Hoosier Barn Heroes (HBH). Jeremy has worked for years to build a network of people who feed him leads for potential barns to be saved, and he now passes those leads along to us.

Jeremy’s call was about a lead on some 100+ year old beams in Shelbyville. He hadn’t seen them, and the person in possession of them didn’t have a great deal of information other than the date of the home from which they were salvaged. He knew I was busy this time of year, but commented that it would be worth my while to go look at them because of who the person was who had them. It turns out that it was Rupert Boneham. Of course, I jumped on the opportunity.

A few years ago I had briefly crossed paths with Rupert at the Indiana Home and Patio Show. Back then I had long hair and a long beard, and he immediately commented on how great it was to see another pirate walking around. It was a fleeting, chance meeting. I didn’t get to know the man, but I could feel his strong personality and presence. To be sure, I was and still am a fan, but I had no idea the depth of the man until we met once again on the 28th.

Jeremy had put me in touch with Rupert’s not-for-profit organization, Rupert’s Kids. This organization actually owned the beams, and the money from their sale would go directly to help Rupert’s Kids, the young men and women who found themselves tucked under his wing for support, guidance, and development.

As Jason Schoeff, our general manager, and I pulled into Shelbyville and saw the old building that housed Rupert’s Kids, we chuckled. Of course this was Rupert’s place. It was old and worn out but full of character, and even had a life-sized pirate statue looking out the window. Restoring history began at home for him apparently!

We walked in, and there, behind a counter and surrounded by several desks cluttered with a mess of papers and office supplies, was Rupert, sitting with two young men and a lady. They were huddled around a computer monitor, lost in some sort of business conversation.

It took a few minutes for his eyes to meet mine, but when they did, Rupert came alive. He had visitors. He bounced out of his chair and introduced himself (as if that needed to happen), eager to meet the men who would tell him if these beams were, indeed, worth anything.

He directed us through the old building, down a narrow hallway, making certain we ducked at the right moments to avoid hitting our heads on the various supplies and construction material packed into the tight and disheveled space. Rupert, a hoarder? Umm … yeah.

We moved the beams out and began asking questions, both about the beams and Rupert’s program. Turns out, Rupert’s Kids is a re-entry program for convicted felons. Rupert mentors these young men, teaching them life skills and a sense of worth as they salvage items from old homes and barns. As he puts it, they’ve been “salvaging material and people for 25 years.”

Boy, did that strike home with me. The philosophy of reclaiming the past in salvaged materials and saving lives is what Hoosier Barn Heroes is all about, too.

In our business we see the beauty in old barn material that might be considered trash to some. We reclaim the wood from barns built more than 100 years ago; barns built for the simple purpose of housing animals or farm equipment, protecting them from the weather. Many of the buildings we are lead to have been neglected and abused for years. We use the material from these humble structures to make heirloom quality furniture, accent walls, and custom pieces that will serve a completely different purpose, and far more glorious future.

Hoosier Barn Heroes recognizes the similarities this type of reclamation and restoration has with the human experience. There is such a strong metaphor between saving old barn wood and saving lives.

Everyone has done something for which they’re not proud. In fact, many of us have made decisions in our lives that have taken us down a shameful road. For others, they are wronged by the exploitative nature of malevolent people, victimized; treated horribly and cast into the trash heap of life. As a victim or a victimizer, you may look back on your life and feel that there is little there that is of use to anyone.

Just like Rupert, we here at Hoosier Barn Heroes say that’s nonsense!

Rupert has his Kids. HBH partners with because we feel so strongly in the redemptive spirit of mankind.  Restored is a not-for-profit organization that rescues and assists girls exploited by the sex trade industry here in Indiana. Ten percent of the proceeds from Hoosier Barn Heroes goes directly to Restored because we want to have a small hand in helping these young girls reclaim their lives. Visit to find out more about their noble undertaking.

So, I wake up every day knowing there will be something that inspires me. Hoosier Barn Heroes is dedicated to restoring history, savings lives and creating a better future for old, neglected barn wood and for forgotten or discarded people. In the end, it’s for all of us.

– Bobby Williams
Hoosier Barn Heroes


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