WRBL marks Founder’s Day by building walls for tornado victims’ new homes

(Photo: WRBL’s Phil Scoggins reports live from Monday’s wall build in the parking lot of Providence Baptist Church in Beauregard, Ala.)

Staffers from WRBL-TV of Columbus, Ga., spent Monday serving their community — as did 173 other Nexstar-affiliated TV stations across the country in marking the media group’s Founder’s Day.

It is a safe bet, though, that the team from WRBL out-sweated every one of their sister stations as they hammered away in brutal heat and scorching sun — building walls that will rise soon as new Fuller Center for Housing homes for families who lost their homes in the March 3 EF-4 twister that tore a mile-wide swath of destruction through the rural community of Beauregard, Ala.

David Hart (right) is WRBL’s Vice-President and General Manager.

“Today, I like to say we’re putting some sweat equity in,” said WRBL Vice President and General Manager David Hart, who worked with both the morning and afternoon wall-building crews in the parking lot of Beauregard’s Providence Baptist Church.

Hart said that selecting a Founder’s Day project this year was not a difficult decision.

“This year, it was a no-brainer — we needed to help the folks here in Beauregard and Lee County who were hit so hard by the tornado back on March 3,” he said. “This one means something extra this year because it was just such a terrible tragedy — probably the biggest news story that’s happened in this market in a long, long time … in decades. And it’s an ongoing thing. These folks still need our help, so we’re in it for the long haul.”

They also were in it from the beginning as Hart said WRBL’s Elizabeth White was the first reporter on the scene after the tornado, followed by anchors Phil Scoggins and Teresa Whitaker — not to mention the emergency coverage by WRBL’s weather team as the storm approached and continued through other parts of the area. He said that the wall build was a tangible way to remain connected to the Beauregard story.

“For them to come here now and reinforce that service that they provided that day by what they’re doing today says so much about the kind of people they are, and that goes for everybody at the station,” Hart said. “You can’t put a value on it. It’s just phenomenal.”

Two new Fuller Center homes sponsored by Church of the Highlands were begun on Friday and were dried-in by Sunday.

You can, however, put a value on WRBL’s efforts to help fund the building of more Fuller Center homes in Beauregard, where three already have been built, two are under construction, two more are coming this summer, and 10 will go up during the 2019 Millard Fuller Legacy Build that begins Sept. 29. This past Thursday, WRBL teamed up with Kissin’ 99.3 for on-location fundraisers in Columbus and Opelika that Hart said raised several thousand dollars with more still coming in. In fact, a group from Afni in Opelika showed up at midday Monday to present a $5,000 check for The Fuller Center’s recovery efforts in Beauregard after learning about it from WRBL.

“This really speeds up the process of building a house in a week, but it also gives everybody the opportunity to have a part in what we’re doing — rebuilding homes to help rebuild lives,” said Kim Roberts, Executive Director of the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project, the covenant partner in charge of the rebuilding efforts. “It’s quite amazing just to see how much people really care about the devastation and the loss of homes and they’re out here to make a difference building these walls.”

The walls being built on Monday will be used in the construction of two new Fuller Center homes funded by the Church of the Highlands, which is also supplying volunteers, that are going up in August — one month before the Legacy Build.  T.J. Coleman’s mother is one of the homeowner partners for the Legacy Build, but he worked alongside WRBL volunteers on Monday to help build walls for others who will get homes before her.

T.J. Coleman’s mother lost her home in the March 3 tornado.

“I’m very grateful and very happy to see people come together like this and work as a team to do this for these people who lost so much,” he said.

Coleman, who runs a construction company himself, was returning from work in Florida when the tornado struck Beauregard and destroyed his mother’s home, as well as many others.

“It scared me pretty bad,” he said. “I hit Eufaula, and a tornado came through Eufaula. Then I got a call from someone saying that my mom’s house had been wiped out. So, I did all I could to rush to get here after that tornado. When I got here, she was not worrying about herself. She was worried about everybody else, helping with traffic and helping find people. I’m grateful that she’s alive, but I’m so sorry for the losses.”

Providence Baptist Church’s Diane Smith (left) grew up in Americus near Koinonia Farm, birthplace of the principles behind The Fuller Center.

Providence Baptist Church, the main host church for the Legacy Build, was once again the host for a wall build, having done the same in April for a group of student-athletes from the University of Alabama and nearby Auburn University. Church members provided lunch, snacks and drinks for Monday’s volunteers.

Among the members helping out was Diane Smith, who brought two grandchildren with her to serve. Supporting The Fuller Center’s efforts in Beauregard comes natural. She grew up in the Americus area, and her mother helped Koinonia Farm’s Florence Jordan sell eggs when the local community boycotted the farm over its support for racial equality and peace.

“I was so excited when I heard The Fuller Center would be here in Beauregard,” Smith said. “It really ties the whole thing together for me. They are doing a wonderful job, and everyone is coming together.”


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