All Fuller Center for Housing covenant partners open their arms to those who wish to volunteer their time to help others have simple, decent homes. But rarely do they come en masse they way they did for the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project in June.
That’s when the leadership of a new Hyundai Dymos plant in West Point, Georgia, came to CFCP Executive Director Kim Roberts looking for an outlet for their new employees to contribute to the community while the plant was still gearing up to go online.
Roberts welcomed the promise of 15 employees she could put to work eight hours a day, five days a week, for eight weeks this summer. Since then, that number has grown to more than 50 — a huge number for a covenant partner not currently engaged in a blitz build.
Now, a little more than midway through their summer of service, the Hyundai Dymos volunteers have helped a 69-year-old woman displaced by a house fire return to the homesite where she had lived her entire life, began a major renovation for the family of an Army veteran wounded in Iraq, helped in CFCP’s new ReUse Store and worked on other projects.
In the article below, Valley Times-News News Editor Wayne Clark takes an extensive look at the relationship. You also can hear from Roberts and Hyundai Dymos representatives in the video above. Click here to view photos related to the story.
By WAYNE CLARK, Valley Times-News
(reprinted with permission)
LANETT, Alabama — Approximately 40 people who will be working at the Hyundai Dymos plant when it opens this fall are getting an experience in team building while volunteering for three ongoing home rehab projects for the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project (CFCP). Two of the existing homes that are extensively being renovated are in Lanett and a third one is in the Whitesville community in northwest Harris County.
In Whitesville, a Hyundai Dymos work crew is lending a helping hand to Mildred Hutchinson, who has been struggling to have a new home after the home she’d lived in all her life burned to the ground in a fire on Thanksgiving weekend 2012.
Since that time, Hutchinson, who’s nearing 70 years of age, has lived with a sister in LaGrange. Her goal has been to have another livable home placed in the site of the family home place. The first step in that process was achieved when she was able to get a low-cost home in Columbus. Some houses near St. Francis Hospital were condemned in a hospital expansion project. Hutchinson was able to get one of them and have it moved to Harris County.
It was little more than a shell at the time, but after a year-and-a-half of work it’s starting to look like a nice place to live. A devout Methodist, Hutchinson has gotten a lot of help from people of faith in trying to reestablish a new home on property that’s been in her family for many years.
"Mildred has been a friend of my family for years," said Andy Sivell. "We’re all Methodists and on each other’s prayer lists. Mildred is special to me and my wife Marla. We’ve been trying to help her along. It’s been a blessing to us. Mildred is the kind of person who has always given to others and never asked for anything. Her whole family was that way. This was a time people needed to give back something to her. I’m a firm believer that the Lord will provide, and we are seeing that here."
Sivell knew about the CFCP and what it can do in the way of home restoration in having worked at one time with Knology in West Point. He got in touch with Bill Scott, who referred him to CFCP Executive Director Kim Roberts.
Roberts, who has a good group of volunteers on loan this summer from Hyundai Dymos, arranged a trip with her and John Kim, president of Hyundai Dymos North America, to meet with Hutchinson at her home site. They saw how they could make a difference in helping an elderly woman realize her dream of having a new home on a familiar site.
"We have transformed it in a short time," Roberts said. "There were some foundation issues and some floor issues we had to take care of. The walls were not in good shape, and we’ve brought in some siding."
Under the direction of CFCP General Manager Jeff Davis, the work crew has done a remarkable job in a short period of time. The walls, the ceiling and the floors have gotten extensive work. New flooring and cabinets have gone into the kitchen area.
There’s still some work left to be done – a septic tank must go in and pass inspection – but the chances appear good that Hutchinson will be able to move in by Thanksgiving weekend 2014. "There’s some light now at the end of the tunnel," Sivell said. "Jeff has been fantastic. The volunteers working here have learned more than just construction from him; they’ve also learned some life skills by being around him."
Hutchinson, who was born and raised in a house her parents built in the 1940s, says that she’s overwhelmed at what has been done in her behalf. "It’s beautiful," she said.
Roberts said the Hyundai Dymos volunteers have been very active recently not only in Whitesville, but also at the ReUse Store on Gilmer Avenue in Lanett and at two work sites near W.O. Lance Elementary School in Lanett. One existing house being re-worked is on South Third Street, just across the road from the school playground, and the other on South Fourth behind the school.
The house on South Third Street is being rehabbed to be a new home for a veteran and his family. When the work is completed in September, Justin and Jennifer Graves will be living there with their two small children. Justin is a veteran of the U.S. Army and was wounded in the Iraq War.
When the work began, the house was in pretty bad shape. It had been abandoned for some time. The roof leaked, and there were some bad places in the floor. Vandals had spray painted graffiti all over the walls.
Despite that, the house had possibilities. Like many homes in the historic mill villages, it was made with excellent wood, the kind that’s almost impossible to find today other than in existing buildings. Some of these old homes were made with virgin pine or second-generation pine. This kind of slow-growth timber is no longer around to be harvested today, the old-growth longleaf pine forests having long been gone.
These homes were built with wide hallways and spacious rooms.
Plans are to finish the project within a month. The kitchen will be re-done and a new laundry room built. New, double pane windows will be going in. In recent days there has been lots of scraping and priming the walls in preparation for painting the house.
The CFCP has another existing home on South Fourth Avenue near the office of Charter Communications that can be rehabbed into a new home for a qualifying veteran and their family. "If anyone knows a veteran in need of housing, get them to apply with us," Roberts says.
"We want to thank Hyundai Dymos for the way they’ve helped us," Roberts adds. "There’s no way we could be doing what we are right now without their help. This is clear evidence we are getting good benefits from the auto suppliers we have in the community."
CFCP President Curt Johnson commends Roberts and Davis for the work they are doing on behalf of the organization. "Kim and Jeff have very good organizational skills," he said. "They do a great job in using large groups of people and getting them to accomplish needed tasks. It’s not easy to have 40 people doing three different projects at the same time. It takes some special people to coordinate this. Kim and Jeff have done a great job with this."