In an open letter to South Forsyth Middle School, Linda Ebert expresses her gratitude to Fuller Center Lake Lanier for taking over a special project with several unexpected challenges.
Hello South Forsyth Middle School Family,
Over 4 years ago, Sandy Tinsley and Katie Newman (our social worker at the time) came to me and asked if I’d partner with them in helping a student in our special education program. We thought that with the students I worked with at church, we’d be able to help get Ben and his mom, Velvie, into the home his grandma willed him. It was in disrepair due to some squatters who moved in after grandma passed away.
Katie and I went over to assess the situation and it was really bad. We couldn’t have people under 18 helping due to the dangerous environment (glass, needles, etc.). Shari McAninch, Ingrid Burnell, Aaron Daniels and I cleared out what we could, but it was a job bigger than imagined (ask Ingrid about the hornet attack…I’m still sorry about that, Ingrid 🙂).
Katie contacted Lanier Fuller Center for Housing (Kind of like a Habitat for humanity group) and after numerous meetings, they agreed to take on the project. They are 70-80 year old retirees with one “youngster”, Zach Nissan, thrown in. The project was horrible. The septic system, heating and air system, electric, plumbing and a total gut of the inside had to be completed. They even had to dig around the perimeter and reseal the house because rainwater kept getting in. Many of these things did not show up in the initial assessment done by an outside contractor. Ben’s grandpa built the house over 50 years ago.
The Lanier Fuller team persevered year after year. I tried to help raise $ (very challenging) and folks like Gayla Wakefield and her son and husband helped. They specifically helped with the painting the outside!
This last weekend, Ben and Velvie moved in. They have nice used furniture and some new things in their home. Tracey Hollabaugh, Amanda Drosopoulos, and Fred’s Beds, donated items so the new place felt like home. A number of you have helped through the years with contributions or volunteer hours. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
The Lanier Fuller Center team almost went bankrupt and many of the retirees spent their own money keeping this project moving forward. It cost over $35,000 cash even though many things were donated. If you want to donate they are a 501c3 – https://fullercenterlakelanier.com/ I am SO thankful for the Lanier Fuller Center team sticking it out. Ben and Velvie would still be living in a rundown trailer-with broken windows and cold water–if it weren’t for the Lanier Fuller Team. Chuck said that what kept him going was doing it for Ben and not letting me down (sigh.)
This entire process was such a great reminder to me that I need to persevere even when things are hard and even horrible. Even when there are disappointments and exhaustion. Those are the times I have to lean into my “why.” That’s what keeps me going. If you don’t have a “why” that sustains, it’s time to reassess.
Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did. N. Gingrich
Ben wouldn’t have this house if it weren’t for the SFMS team. This group of people we teach with change lives for entire families because we care. I hope that seeing the end of this story might give you some encouragement for the week. Ben graduates from Denmark HS in May and starts Project Life. He also has a home he can afford to live in for the rest of his life. How cool is that?!
Thank you – from Ben and Velvie, too.
Fuller Center Lake Lanier’s primary focus is to help worthy families repair, restore, and make homes safe for the family. Our Greater Blessing program typically handles smaller projects, such as roof repairs, rebuilding decks or stairs, installing or replacing wheelchair ramps, among other things. Most of our Greater Blessings require a few hundred dollars in materials and a few hours to complete. The Velvie House Project was far bigger and more challenging than anything we could have anticipated. We are forever grateful to all the volunteers, financial contributions, and local businesses who helped make this dream a reality!
To fulfill this mission we need your help! We’re always happy to have volunteers on hand to complete the necessary work, but we also require other valuable resources, such as building materials, tools and equipment, and funding.