Charlene Bryant met her new neighbors in tragic fashion – when their mobile home was destroyed by fire on Nov. 16, just eight days before Thanksgiving near Holden, La.
The family of four – Ronnie and Kathy Blount and their sons B.J. Watts, 28, and Michael Watts, 27 – escaped with just the clothes on their backs. They were mostly unharmed, although Michael suffered cuts on both of his hands during his escape from the blaze. With Ronnie suffering from health problems, Kathy on disability and B.J. and Michael between jobs, it was a devastating blow.
In rural Livingston Parish, being neighbors means much more than residential proximity. Charlene Bryant was overwhelmed with concern for her neighbors, who found it necessary to move into a 680 square foot unfinished cabin on their property which was unharmed by the fire. It was safe but barely livable for the family of four.
Bryant asked area home improvement stores to donate materials to make the home more livable. The Home Depot store in Covington, La., 35 miles from the cabin, responded. The store manager, Sandy Snyder, and co-worker Scott Bayham visited the property to assess the situation and decided to help. But they needed to partner with a nonprofit. Bryant suggested the Ginger Ford Northshore Fuller Center for Housing.
She sent them to the right place.
We began collaborating right away,” said Tamara Danel, who leads Ginger Ford Northshore FCH in addition to sitting on the Fuller Center for Housing’s Board of Directors. “It was tragic to hear that the Blount family lost their home just before Thanksgiving, but thanks to a miraculous chain of events, they will have a small but decent place to live before Christmas arrives. By partnering on this project with Home Depot, we can work toward our mission of eliminating substandard housing for one more family in our community.”
Ginger Ford Northshore FCH was asked to apply for a community grant from The Home Depot Foundation to fund the cost of the materials, a process Danel describes as “super simple.” A $5,700 grant was quickly approved.
But the local store did not stop there. They also are sending volunteers to work at the site on Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 14-15. Ginger Ford Northshore FCH will provide some tools, an electrician and arrange for Home Depot’s volunteers to be fed. The volunteers will work on the floors, hang drywall, apply paint and siding and install light fixtures in the small cabin where the family will live until they can afford a new home.
This is our first occasion to work with the employees of Home Depot, but through the generosity of The Home Depot Foundation, I am hoping we can work together again in the future to help other low-income families in need of a hand up," Danel said. “We are very grateful to The Home Depot Foundation for funding this project so that the Blount family can have a safe and decent place to spend their Christmas.”