COLUMBIA — It didn’t matter that television's Ty Pennington was nowhere to be seen or that shouts of “Move that bus!” weren’t heard. Columbia senior Hildred Catherine Henderson still received an unofficial “extreme home makeover” on July 30.
About 130 volunteers devoted 1,500 hours to the project, which is the third annual collaboration between the Boone County Council on Aging and the Fairview Road Church of Christ to improve houses in the Columbia area.
“It was wonderful. It was like a miracle happened,” said Angelene Dixon, Henderson’s daughter. “Overwhelming is the right word to describe it.”
Each year, the home makeover project helps a Columbia senior with significant home repairs that he or she could not normally afford. At this year's event, volunteers worked for three and a half days.
The Henderson home was badly in need of repairs that Dixon and her family didn’t have the time or money to fix. The house had plumbing problems, soft spots in the floor, dry rot under the kitchen sink, a broken water heater and bad linoleum floors.
The old driveway was too muddy for both Henderson’s wheelchair and the transportation vehicle that brings her to and from dialysis treatment three days a week.
Dixon said the contrast between the old house and the repairs is truly an extreme change.
Dixon said it was more than just the labor that was put into the work; it was the love of the people behind it that made the difference.
“It looks like a blessing,” she said. “It’s such an improvement that I don’t remember what the old house looks like.”
The project began on July 27 and was completed July 30. Brian Hajicek, minister of Fairview Road Church, said there were two time slots each day for volunteers to fill, from 8 a.m. until noon and from 4 to 8 p.m.
An average of 40 volunteers worked during each shift. Time was reserved for a meal and devotional time every morning and evening, Hajicek said.
“We're just glad that we're able to serve,” Hajicek said. “It's nice because we have the opportunity to serve in the community. It's also nice to have the camaraderie of working together."
Dixon said the volunteers were always concerned about her family’s preferences and would often ask questions such as, “What’s your mother’s favorite color?” and “Will she like this?”
Hajicek said when he asked Dixon if church members could start or add another aspect to the project, she would ask him, “Brian, are you trying to make me cry?”
Special relationships between volunteers and Henderson’s family developed during the working days.
“I overheard church members talking about, ‘I’ll come back and check on this for you,’ or, ‘I’ll come back because I want you to meet my wife,’” said Amadi Swartz, volunteer coordinator for the Council on Aging.
Dixon had similar sentiments.
“Afterwards, I just felt like I have an adoptive spiritual family. Everybody was so awesome,” she said. “I’m getting chills talking about it.”
In the house itself, volunteers worked to:
- Remodel the kitchen with newly installed cabinets, sink and faucet, stove hood, countertops, fresh paint and a cleaned stove
- Remodel two bathrooms with new showers, tile work, sinks and vanities
- Install carpet and tile throughout the house
- Fix a soft spot in the floor
- Install light fixtures and ceiling fans
- Make curtains by hand for every window and install mini-blinds
- Fix the water heater
- Correct a water spigot under the house that had been leaking since winter
- Apply several coats of paint to the walls
In the yard, volunteers worked to:
- Pull up rows of hedges
- Tear down an aluminum shed and build a wooden one
- Build new fences around the backyard
- Take out a clothesline that blocked the view of the backyard
- Cut down a tree limb over the house and clear debris from the yard
- Gravel the formerly muddy and unnavigable driveway
- Landscape flower beds
- Plant rose bushes in the front yard
- Paint chairs and outside walls of the house, and donate cushions and flower pots
Henderson’s son, Robert Williams, said when Henderson saw the new house for the first time at the July 30 unveiling, all she could say was, “It’s so nice; it’s so nice!” and clap to show her excitement.
Henderson is currently living in a nursing home rehabilitation center for complications from a heart attack she had July 24, three days before the work started.
Dixon said Henderson was able to come home for the unveiling of the house but ended up back in the hospital at about 4 a.m. the next day because of fluid retention in her lungs. She is looking forward to coming home again, Dixon said.
Swartz said recipients are chosen based on age and income qualifications, as well as the potential workload of the project.
Projects must be flexible and extensive enough to allow for several days of work, as well as provide outlets for the many different ages and talents of the volunteers.
Swartz said she looked at several different houses and recommended those to Hajicek. He ultimately decided which house to repair.
After the decision was made, Hajicek and other church members with construction backgrounds walked through the house and, with assistance from the family, began making a list of projects to work on. That process took several weeks.
Dixon had called the Council on Aging to ask for help with the repairs that were most dire — such as the driveway and plumbing — just as the process to find this year’s home makeover began.
“I hit the jackpot,” Dixon said, happily throwing her hands into the air. “This is something (Henderson) wanted to have done to her home for years.”
Williams lives with and helps his mother. He said this project will ease a lot of the worry Henderson has been feeling lately.
Dixon said Henderson has had a hard time as of late, beginning with the death of her daughter, Faye, in 2005, and worsening with the death of her son, William, in 2006. She has had major health concerns and several surgeries within the last few years.
Dixon lives one street over from Henderson and Williams. She joked that Williams cooks each meal for Henderson and does her laundry, while she has to give her mother the tough love, encouraging her to take on such chores herself.
Dixon said church members have kept in touch by calling or stopping by every day since the project was finished.
Henderson's family plans on attending services at Fairview Road Church soon and offered to host services in their newly-opened backyard.
This year the church had a barbecue to celebrate completing the renovations and passed out fliers in the neighborhood. Hajicek estimated that 130 people attended, including neighbors, friends and volunteers.
Although this year's project had as many as 30 commercial and private sponsors, the Community Development Block Grant helped significantly in offsetting the cost.