COLUMBIA — Yellow caution tape, freshly poured concrete and a sign that said "Church at work" surrounded Almeta Crayton as she got ready to enter her newly renovated Oak Street home Wednesday. As she climbed up the wooden front porch, about 50 volunteers followed behind her to reveal a whole different picture.
"I'm going inside," Crayton shouted before entering the front door.
Inside, Crayton found a newly painted, decorated and furnished house. New appliances and furniture, a new air and heating system and new flooring and walls filled the home.
As she proceeded to the living room with two volunteers helping her at each arm, she said, "God, Jesus Christ. Will you look at that?!"
After weeks of renovation, the Fairview Road Church of Christ volunteers revealed the changes they had made to Crayton's home.
Earlier this week, rain made pouring concrete on new walkways impossible and the project was delayed several days as a result. Despite the challenges, the team reunited Wednesday to witness Crayton's reaction. She had not seen the changes since the renovation began.
"I could just scream," Crayton said as she surveyed the renovations.
After exploring the home, Crayton sat in a brown recliner in the living room surrounded by volunteers and members of the community. She then got a chance to thank everyone for all the work they had put into the home.
While she wiped tears off her face, she said, "I try to help people, but you guys have helped me in ways I couldn't dream of."
"Look at these curtains," she said while looking around the room and pointing at new curtains on the windows.
Dozens of volunteers have been working at the site since the project officially started . Members of the community have also donated money for the project.
Claudia Templer has been working on the project with her husband Jerry Templer. "Isn't it wonderful?" she asked another volunteer as they hugged.
"I think she is excited, and we are excited for her," Templer said.
Walter Lewis, who had also worked on the project, watched the reveal while sitting on the neighbor's front porch. The home belongs to his sister-in-law, and as he sat with her and his wife, he said, "This is crazy."
Fairview Road Church of Christ has been organizing the annual "extreme makeover" for the past five years. This year, church members chose Crayton's home as a result of community suggestions.
Crayton, who served as First Ward councilwoman, is best known for her Everybody Eats Thanksgiving food drive and dinner, which has been held for the past 15 years.
After the reveal, volunteers stayed around and said goodbye to Crayton. As they exited the home, they picked up their shoes from the entrance of the house. Crayton, who was sitting in her recliner, had told everyone entering the house to take off their shoes.
"I have learned so much," Crayton said. "My neighbors got to see what happens when people get together to do something."
"This is something they need to see," she said.
Supervising editor is Zachary Matson.