The home at 206 McArthur Boulevard in Warner Robins needed more than just a little work — by all accounts, it was dilapidated — but it had a strong foundation.
That’s just one thing it shares with Helping Hands of Houston County, First Methodist Church’s new ministry aimed at moving families from substandard housing toward home ownership.
Sunday, the church dedicated the renovated home, the first in what the ministry hopes will be more to come. A family is expected to move in as early as next month, said the Rev. Jimmy Asbell, the church’s pastor.
“The foundation of this was sure because it’s something God wanted to see happen,” Asbell said. “We had a house. We just needed to make it a home.”
First United Methodist sees the ministry as an extension of its efforts to help the needy. Last year, the church provided more than 10,000 city residents with a week’s worth of groceries and its soup kitchen served more than 7,500 hot meals.
The house, which is located across the street from the church, was donated a couple of years ago by a Mississippi man who had been impressed with the efforts to help the less-fortunate.
“He had not been here in 20 years, but he knew about the things we were doing. He wanted to be a part of it,” associate pastor Missy Blumenthal said.
“I don’t know how he found out,” Asbell said. “It’s one of those God things. One day I get a letter in the mail.”
Late Mayor Donald Walker helped secure a state Community Development Block Grant to help pay for the project, he said. Church volunteers did the repairs.
Prospective families are referred to the church by community agencies. Money the chosen family will pay for rent will be banked on their behalf and used to pay off their personal debt or saved for a down payment to put them in position to eventually buy a home, Asbell said.
“Our long-term goal is to help them become homeowners. It’s really meant to be a hand up and not a handout.”
The church hopes the ministry will become self-supportive and partner with Habitat for Humanity. There are no plans to apply for more grants.
The next home is next door to the church and is in much better condition, Asbell said.
Following the dedication, the pastor invited members to come inside to see “how God’s gifts, given through your hands, can make a once dilapidated, rundown property into a home.”
The two-bedroom home got new ceilings and tile flooring in the kitchen and dining area. Old carpet was removed from the living room and other areas to reveal hardwood floors that were cleaned into shape.
The bedrooms shined with new paint jobs in “old pickup truck” blue and “dill pickle” green. The home is furnished with a washer and dryer, refrigerator and range donated by the church men’s ministry.
An apple pie baked in the oven to make sure the place also smelled like a home.
“We’re just basking in the ambience,” Blumenthal said.
Church member Dave Stafford and his wife, Maura, helped install new vinyl siding on the house. They were among the several dozen people who took a look around.
“I think this is a great idea. It’s obviously going to help a family,” he said. “It’s a great community and church effort.”
Calvin Norton lived at the home in the 1990s with his son and two daughters. He had watched the home fall into disrepair over the years but was impressed Sunday with the church’s work.
“It’s nice,” he said. “They’ve added some changes. It was in bad shape. So many people had moved in and moved out.”
Asbell said homes in the neighborhood were built in the late 1940s and early 1950s as housing for Robins Air Force Base workers. A mill was set up to cut raw timber into lumber, including the heart pine beams used in the home’s foundation.
“They’re solid,” he said,
To contact writer Rodney Manley, call 744-4623.