(The Valley Times) The Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project took a donated 102-year-old old mill house desperately in need of work in Lanett, Alabama, and turned it into a beautiful home for an Army veteran who was wounded in Iraq and his wife and two daughters. The renovation could not have been accomplished without the donation by attorney Greg Ward, volunteers from Hyundai-Dymos and the Home Depot of LaGrange, Georgia. In the following article, Wayne Clark writes in extensive detail about the process of making this once-vacant property a like-new home for a wonderful family.
The Valley Times
LANETT — The Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project (CFCP) has a goal of renovating at least one existing local home for a veteran and their family each year. At 3 p.m. on Sunday, a big turnout was on hand on South Third Street in Lanett to dedicate an extensively reworked mill village home for Justin and Jennifer Graves and their two girls, Carley, 15, and Kendall, 11.
The home was built in 1912, two years after a new two-story public school opened across the street. That school burned to the ground in January 1923 and was replaced the next year by an airplane-shaped school that stood until 1980. A playground is on that site today.
A native of the Gadsden area, Graves spent five years in the U.S. Army. He was wounded in the rib cage area on a tour of duty in Iraq. Mrs. Graves is a local girl, having graduated from Lanett High.
At the dedication ceremony, CFCP Executive Director Kim Roberts said that this project had been one of the organization’s best rehab projects to date. "We had so much participation in it," she said. "The volunteers from Home Depot in LaGrange, from Hyundai-Dymos were great."
Tim Scanell was recognized for the work he and the other volunteers from Home Depot did in installing new plumbing. Approximately 40 Hyundai-Dymos employees took on such tasks as scraping off the old painting and putting on the new. They also added some new siding to the home.
The work started in July and took place during a very busy period for the CFCP. Over this span, the CFCP was involved in renovating a home in the Whitesville community in Harris County, had a Block of Blessings task in the Lanett mill village where they took care of some needs on several dozen existing homes and in September built a new home in the Jackson Heights neighborhood in one week.
CFCP President Curt Johnson thanked local attorney Greg Ward for donating the home to the organization. Johnson said the house was a wonderful example of the kinds of mill village homes that were being built in the local area 100 years ago. "It has the high ceilings and great wood work," he said. "We were fortunate that it was still in the same kind of condition when it was built."
Structurally, the house was in good condition but still needed a lot of work to be livable.
Johnson said things seem to magically fall in place as the project proceeded. When it was decided that some siding was needed, Roberts found that exactly what was needed was available at no cost from the Fuller Center headquarters in Americus, Ga.
Brenda Barton of Tallahassee, Fla., director of U.S. Covenant Partner Support for the Fuller Center for Housing, was present at the dedication and thanked Roberts and General Manager Jeff Davis for the leadership they have given the local chapter. Barton said she first came to the local area in 2009 and had been most impressed with the work being done here by the CFCP.
"We hope you keep doing more of this," she said. "Kim and Jeff are a great team and are an inspiration to us all," she said.
Lanett Mayor Oscar Crawley said he was most grateful for what the CFCP had done in Lanett. "I can’t thank the Fuller Center enough for what they’ve done for Lanett," he said. "I want to thank Kim and Jeff along with Curt and his board.”
Scanell congratulated the new homeowners and added that he and his fellow employees from Home Depot were well pleased with how everything turned out.
Mrs. Graves was quite emotional when thanking the CFCP and its volunteers. "We are so grateful," she said. "Thank you all for being here today and for what you’ve done for us."
"Greg Ward allowed this to happen," Roberts said. "He donated the house to us. Without that, we wouldn’t have had a veteran’s home this year. We also couldn’t have done this without the help of our volunteers, especially those from Home Depot and Hyundai-Dymos."
Roberts presented the Graves family a new Bible and the keys to the house. "We hope you will be reading it a lot and standing by it," she said.
The Rev. Matthew Thrower of Point Refuge Church delivered the dedicatory prayer. He said that Jennifer and Jason were dedicated members of the church and was well pleased with how things were working out for them. "Earlier this year I was passing out flyers in this neighborhood and walked right past this house," he said. "I thought then what a nice home it would be for someone with a little fixing up. Isn’t it amazing that that’s happened? It is our prayer that God continues to be the center of this home."
Following the ceremony, the guests in attendance enjoyed slices of a Fuller Center and Team Depot Foundation cake made by Brandi Burrows.
It’s been an exhausting year for the CFCP, but Roberts is not about to slow down. She has another major undertaking in the works for this month. From Oct. 26-31, as many as 400 Point University students will be participating in some way in a major Block of Blessings project in the Lanett mill village.
Around 40 existing homes on South First, Third and Fourth avenues will be getting some exterior work such as porch repair, painting and yard work. "Most of the people who live in the homes are elderly people on fixed incomes," Roberts said.
Roberts really likes the enthusiasm she’s seen from the Point students. Next year they will be building two sets of walls for a new home at an undetermined location in the local area. There’s a good chance the CFCP will be building its next new home in Valley.
The first major step in new home building is property acquisition. It really helps when people donate lots they don’t need to the organization. It can be a win-win for them on taxes. In donating some land they have no need for, they won’t have to pay taxes on it, and they can get a charitable deduction.
"We would like to do one or two veterans homes a year," Johnson said. "When you say the word veteran it has a way of opening doors for you. People like to help veterans, but the first thing we need is a veteran who’s in need. We will take anyone from 25 to 65. We just need for veterans to apply."