How an ailing child’s Christmas wish became a home for the holidays

How an ailing child’s Christmas wish became a home for the holidays

(Photo, from left: Homeowner partner/volunteer Robin Pierre, homeowner partner and Army veteran Carla Ross and Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project Executive Director Kim Roberts with K’Hairi outside the Ross’ new home in West Point, Georgia.)

K’Hairi has been going in and out of hospitals all eight of his years, just a fact of life with sickle-cell anemia and asthma. Coming home from the hospital used to mean going back to houses that were in terrible condition, exacerbating his health issues.

Yet, when K’Hairi would crawl upon Santa’s lap at the mall every Christmas, he did not wish for anything for himself — not for toys, not even for his sickle-cell to be wiped away. He simply told Santa that he wanted his mother, Army veteran Carla Ross, to have a good home.

Fortunately, Fuller Center for Housing supporters managed to do what Santa Claus could not. In June of this year, dozens of volunteers came together over two hot weeks in West Point, Georgia, to build a simple, decent, energy-efficient home in partnership with Carla and K’Hairi. With the exception of outstanding Minnesotan house captains Tim DuBois and Charlie Thell, it was a virtually all-local effort from the tri-city communities of Lanett and Valley, Alabama, and West Point.— three adjacent cities along the famous Chattahoochee River. Lanett, by the way, is the hometown of The Fuller Center’s founder, Millard Fuller.

“I wanted The Fuller Center to be the one to step up and give him that wish,” said Kim Roberts, Executive Director of the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project, one of more than 70 local Fuller Center partners across the United States, in addition to 20 more around the world. “He deserved that wish. What a Christmas wish!”

“It was a lot of work — a lot of hard work was put into it,” Ross said recently as she reflected upon those couple of weeks in June and settling into the home in the weeks afterward. “But it makes you appreciate it more.”

“We were very blessed on this build — just to see K’Hairi’s smile. I think this is going to change his life, and it’s going to help his family.” — Kim Roberts, Executive Director, Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project

Ross has worked multiple jobs and been furthering her education since leaving the Army. She is not the type to look for a handout, which made her an excellent fit to partner with The Fuller Center for Housing. Homeowner partners not only must contribute sweat equity in the building of their homes, but they also must repay the costs of materials on terms they can afford — at zero-percent interest with no profit made — into a Fund for Humanity to help others in her community get the same hand-up. In fact, Ross’ home was the 37th new house built by the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project, and she can see those payments at work right next door today as CFCP broke ground on house No. 38 earlier this week.

“It’s not given to you,” said Ross, echoing a feeling many military veterans have expressed about preferring a hand-up from The Fuller Center over a handout. “It’s not free. The labor doesn’t cost anything, but it’s not free. But we don’t have to pay all the extra stuff and interest. We’re just paying for the house itself. That’s exciting.”

“Our veterans deserve a decent place to live,” said Roberts, who added that a $25,000 grant from Home Depot helped make this project possible. “Home Depot loves our veterans. If it wasn’t for our veterans, we probably wouldn’t be standing here today being able to speak what we want to say. I thank Carla for that — and for being a wonderful mom to K’Hairi and taking very good care of him.”

Not only is Ross’ zero-interest mortgage payment hundreds of dollars less than that for which she could rent a substandard property, but she will someday own the home outright. As theologian Clarence Jordan (a mentor to Millard Fuller) once said: “What the poor need is not charity, but capital; not case workers, but co-workers.”

Another financial benefit is that new Fuller Center homes are extremely energy-efficient. With K’Hairi’s health issues, they cannot allow their home’s air to become thick, muggy and stale in the Georgia heat. Ross understood the home would be energy-efficient, but she still experienced reverse sticker shock when she got her first utility bill this past summer. She was certain she had been undercharged by the power company.

“There was a $300 difference,” she recalled. “I was like, ‘Are you sure this is for the whole month?’ It’s a really big difference.”

The Ross build provided a spiritual lift for the entire community. For Roberts, seeing K’Hairi’s wish come true and the community support that made it happen is the kind of positive story that makes the daily struggles of running a nonprofit worthwhile.

“It was just amazing to see the way the local community came out to support this — just to give K’Hairi a decent place to live,” Roberts said. “You know, when you feel bad or are sick, you need a decent place to lay your head. We wanted K’Hairi to have that.

“We were very blessed on this build — just to see K’Hairi’s smile,” she added. “I think this is going to change his life, and it’s going to help his family.”

Of course, now that K’Hairi and his mother have a simple, decent home to spend the holidays, he is free to ask Santa Claus for something else this Christmas. When asked what will be on his wish list this year, K’Hairi thought for a moment and then responded earnestly:

“I wish every kid in the world had a good home, too.”

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Click here to support K’Hairi’s new wish

 

 

Point University football players tackle 25-home Block of Blessings in West Point, Georgia

Point University football players tackle 25-home Block of Blessings in West Point, Georgia

RELATED STORY (Click here):
Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project
announces 38th and 39th new home builds

Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project Executive Director Kim Roberts brought her Block of Blessings neighborhood improvement event to West Point, Georgia, on Tuesday, working in the city adjacent to late Fuller Center for Housing founder Millard Fuller’s hometown of Lanett, Alabama.

Roberts and her 25 volunteer house captains spruced up 25 properties along east Seventh and Eighth Streets in West Point — an effort made possible by more than 75 freshman athletes from Point University’s Skyhawks football team.

“It was awesome,” Roberts said of the day that included everything from yard maintenance to painting and minor repairs to help families in the area. “Those football players did a tremendous job.”

Roberts gave special appreciation for West Point Mayor pro-tem Steve Tramell, who, again, not only supported the CFCP’s work but also volunteered his skills on the site.

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Homeowner partners selected for
CFCP’s 38th and 39th new homes

Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project Executive Director Kim Roberts said that the organization will begin its 38th new home build on November 2 in West Point as a team raises the walls on a simple, decent new home in partnership with Ruthshun Hall and her three daughters.

Roberts said that a team of skilled volunteers will work November 2-4 on the home that is slated to be completed the week of December 4-8 by a team of volunteers from East Alabama Medical Center-Lanier Hospital, major sponsor of the build.

In February, the project plans to begin construction of its 39th new home, also sponsored by EAMC-Lanier, in Lanett, Alabama, in partnership with Loretta Brewer.

Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project Executive Director Kim Roberts (center) with future homeowner partners Loretta Brewer (left) and Ruthshun Hall.

Boy’s Christmas wish for mother to have a decent home now taking shape

Boy’s Christmas wish for mother to have a decent home now taking shape

When Christmas approached, it was time yet again for K’Hairi to climb upon Santa Claus’ lap and ask for the same thing as the year before. The 7-year-old did not ask for toys or video games. He did not even ask for the jolly old elf to end his struggles with sickle-cell anemia.

Instead, he asked for Santa to help his mother, U.S. Army veteran Carla Ross, have a nice house.

Well, he did ask for a couple of other things — a fan and a heater to fight the heat and cold that penetrate the old mill-era shack in which they currently live and where Carla pays about $350 a month in power bills.

On Monday, June 12, K’Hairi’s wish began to take shape on Frank Hall Jr. Street in West Point, Georgia, as volunteers and community leaders worked under a blazing sun and smothering humidity to raise walls on the first day of a two-week blitz by the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project.

Not only will they be able celebrate this Christmas in a new, safe, comfortable home, but K’Hairi also will be able to celebrate his eighth birthday there at the end of July. And for a family dealing with the constant struggle of trying to pay the bills while fighting a disease like sickle-cell, an affordable, energy-efficient home is a dream come true. In fact, it was a dream she had given up on before Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project Executive Director Kim Roberts convinced her that this opportunity was within her reach.

“Ms. Kim had to hunt me down because I was thinking that because I’ve got bad credit it’s going to be too hard to do this,” said Ross, who was active duty in the U.S. Army from 1994-98 before serving in the Army Reserve and being deployed to Uzbekistan after 9/11. “I thought there was no need in trying because I don’t like disappointment. She finally called and said, ‘I’m not taking “no” for an answer.

“It is a blessing,” she added. “I didn’t think it could ever happen for me, and I’d sorta given up trying because every time I took a step forward a storm would hit me and set me back a couple of steps. It’s a wonderful feeling that it’s really going to happen.”

 

STRONG COMMUNITY SUPPORT

It is the fifth year that the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project has teamed up with Home Depot to help a veteran have a decent place to live, with Home Depot providing a $25,000 grant for the Ross build and Charter Bank contributing another $10,000. But the community support does not end there.

City officials — including Mayor Pro-Tem Steve Tramell and Fire Chief Milton Smith — were sweating it out Monday alongside other volunteers, including a team from New Birth Ministries, a yearlong addiction recovery program, and a crew from Perry’s Construction Company that included the boss, Michael Perry. The walls they are raising were provided by CrossRoads Missions and assembled by teams of students from Point University. Ten churches and businesses are providing meals for the workers, and the local Coca-Cola bottler is bringing water, sodas and ice. Meanwhile, a couple of Minnesotans — frequent Fuller Center volunteers Tim DuBois and Charlie Thell — are braving the Georgia heat to serve as house leaders for the build.

“It’s just been a whole flock of people from the community that have been involved,” Tramell said. “This is the group that will see the most dramatic change. This lets the community know that things are changing.”

West Point Mayor Pro-Tem Steve Tramell takes a look down Frank Hall Jr. Street on Monday with K’Hairi.

It is hardly the first time that Tramell has worked with The Fuller Center as he has helped on projects in West Point and in adjacent Lanett, Alabama, where the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project’s success is most visible and where Fuller Center founder Millard Fuller was born and raised. While this is the 37th home for Chattahoochee, it is the first new home build in West Point since Roberts joined the ministry eight years ago.

“It was huge that the citizens wanted The Fuller Center to start back building in West Point again,” said Roberts, adding that a group of local citizens responded to an effort by Tramell to pool money to purchase the lot on which Ross’ home and another will sit. “It’s exciting to have the mayor support you and have the town support you.”

For Tramell, drawing The Fuller Center back into West Point just makes good sense for the city.

“We had a great need in this area of town to do some redevelopment, and this is a new start for Frank Hall Jr. Street,” he said while wiping sweat from his forehead. “This is going to be the kickoff for hopefully a lot more things to come to beautify this street and this whole area. It’s something that’s been a long time coming, and we really needed it. This is a great start. We’ll just keep going right down the street.”

‘I LOVE THIS WORK’

However, even if this build were happening in Lanett or nearby Valley, Alabama, Tramell probably would still be there working alongside volunteers. The build makes sense for revitalization in West Point, but his belief in the hand-up extended to families through this ministry is his main reason for serving on the build.

“K’Hairi is just as sweet as he can be, and Carla is just as deserving as she can be,” Tramell said. “It’s going to be a great thing to be able to get them out of the situation they are in and into something new and clean and safe and just wonderful.

“I love this work,” he added. “I wouldn’t miss it. I really enjoy being out here helping, and it’s a blessing to be able to help. One of these days, I’ll be too old to do this.”

West Point Mayor Pro-Tem Steve Tramell with Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project Executive Director Kim Roberts.

Roberts gets emotional — not that that’s unusual for the woman who hears joyous shouts of “Ms. Kim! Ms. Kim!” from Fuller Center homeowner partners’ children almost every day — simply knowing that another family will have a decent place to live and that a little boy battling illness will have a healthy place to grow up.

“When you can take people out of those situations and put them into something that they can afford and is decent, you’ve changed their life,” Roberts said. “And K’Hairi is just precious. And he’s sick, but he doesn’t show it. He’s always got a smile on his face.”

That smile was even bigger than usual on Monday.

He’s already picked out where he wants to be,” said Ross, who noted that K’Hairi had been ill since Memorial Day weekend, improving enough only this past Saturday to be on the job site. “He said, ‘That’s my room!’ It feels wonderful. This is amazing with all of these people coming out to help. It’s just awesome!”

 

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