COLUMBIA —At first glance, it's easy not to notice the disrepair of Mary Sutton’s home. With great-grandchildren from teens to toddlers running in and out, laughing and playing, the lively atmosphere commands attention over the leaking roof and rotting floors that beg to be fixed. But soon Sutton’s central Columbia home will be getting the attention it needs.
The 78-year-old mother of 12 has seen ABC’s “Extreme Home Makeover,” but she never expected she would get to benefit from something similar.
Members of Fairview Road Church of Christ will put on hard hats this week and give the long-time Columbia resident's home a much needed face-lift.
“The blessing came right on time,” said Martha Sutton, Mary’s daughter, who spends a great deal of time at the home. “Everything is coming down.”
The house, where Mary Sutton has lived for 39 years, gives the congregation much to work on. The list of repairs includes: a leaking roof, peeling paint, falling porch supports, a broken bathroom vanity, carpet in need of replacement and a rotten kitchen sub-floor. In addition, a bathroom door frame will be expanded to allow Sutton, who uses a wheelchair, to enter more easily.
“Everything they do, it’s needed,” Mary Sutton said. “That means a great deal. I’ve never had anybody do anything like that for me.”
Extensive medical bills for treatment of her diabetes and anemia along with high utility bills have made it financially impossible for Mary Sutton to take care of her home, and she said using a wheelchair has made it difficult for her to keep the house in order. Although her grandchildren pitch in to help clean things up, they haven’t had the manpower or the money to do the degree of work needed.
“We’re not completely able to reconstruct a home like they do on television, but we’re doing what we can do to improve the home,” Minister Brian Hajiceck said. Church members will take on the role of construction workers, carpenters, plumbers, painters and landscapers to help Sutton and her family.
Hajiceck will oversee the project, and work is slated to begin on Wednesday and last through the weekend. Hajiceck has worked with the church’s mission chairman David Parker as well as Minister Eric Wilson and elders in the church to plan the project. Adults and children of all ages from the church, as well as the community, are being encouraged to pitch in.
Hajiceck said they like mission trips to be something the whole family can participate in. He said he hopes his three children, ages 11, 8 and 4, will all be able to help in some way.
In previous years, members of the church have taken mission trips outside of Columbia, particularly in Mississippi and Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina. Hajiceck said members of the congregation were interested in getting involved closer to home. He said he hopes this will also allow more people to get involved who can’t necessarily take a week off work but would like to pitch in for a few hours at a time.
The makeover is part of a larger project for the church called Mission Columbia that focuses on serving the community through various means, such as sharing meals with the homeless.
“The real idea here is showing how our faith works,” Hajiceck said. “We’re trying to be the hands, feet, ears and eyes of Jesus for Columbia. We’re trying to serve the community.”
The mission team was put in touch with Sutton through the Boone County Council on Aging, who assisther with transportation. Because of her qualifications through the council, most of the materials being used to complete the project will be funded through grants. The church is providing other materials, such as paint, that won’t be funded, and the Central Missouri Community Action Agency is donating a newer, more energy-efficient air conditioning unit.
Though many people who are pitching in don’t have a lot of experience in carpentry, Hajiceck said there would be something for everyone to do. At least one church member who works full-time in construction will be lending his skills and supervising along with others who have had significant construction experience. While the typical shifts will run from 8 a.m. to noon and 4 to 8 p.m., Hajiceck said he expects the more experienced individuals to work throughout the day to complete more skill-intensive jobs.
The project comes at a perfect time for Mary Sutton and her family, who will host a family reunion at the end of the month. Currently, Sutton lives in the home with two family members while many others spend time there during the day, and she said she will be excited to show off her “new” home to the rest of the family.
“I was so happy,” Sutton said, recalling how she felt when she heard that the church is going to help her. “I just said, Lord, I thank you.”