When A.J. and Felicia Cason set out to help a sick friend, they never expected to gut and rebuild an entire mobile home.
“We’ve been calling it ‘Trick my Trailer,’ ” she said, laughing, Thursday as the couple’s three-week building blitz neared completion.
Next week, Whitney Renee Boyd is expected to be released from a lengthy hospital stay in Atlanta and move into her new house.
Boyd, 24, suffers from cystic fibrosis and is fighting daily to survive a double lung transplant.
Never miss a local story.
The Casons met Boyd’s mother, Vanessa Franks, years ago when A.J. was a Macon police officer and Felicia worked at Macon’s E-911 Center with Franks.
As Boyd’s illness took a turn for the worse, Franks quit her job to be at her daughter’s bedside. They lost their home.
After six months in the hospital, doctors announced earlier this year that Boyd would be released, but she had nowhere to go except a nursing home.
Someone offered a mobile home off Joycliff Road in Jones County, and the Casons stepped in to spruce it up with some fresh drywall and paint.
“When we started tearing things down, we realized it was black and green mold, and it would not be a simple patch job,” Felicia Cason said. “It turned into a complete overhaul.”
Her husband, who has worked different construction jobs over the past 15 years, has been overseeing the operation.
“For the majority of the time, I was the go-to person,” A.J. Cason said as he picked up supplies to do some finish work.
Word spread about the project and about $25,000 in materials has been donated along with a lot of sweat equity.
Old South Heating and Air Conditioning installed a new HVAC system with ultraviolet light to kill any kind of mold or bacteria in the air flow, which is crucial for Boyd.
Drywall and other supplies started coming in from DeFoor Drywall and Rightway Drywall.
Southeastern Roofing and O’Quinn Mobile Home Supply pitched in, and Casteel Dumpster Services had three large trash bins in place to haul away all the debris.
New cabinets were custom-made and installed by Fostering Bulloch of Statesboro.
Herndon’s Backflow and Plumbing, Dina Properties, Baldwin Builders, Middle Georgia Insulation and PPK Baptist Church provided critical support, while Jersey Mike’s Subs sent food.
What impressed the Casons the most were the strangers who showed up ready to work -- including two Moss brothers from Robins Air Force Base and a lady named Amy, who raked the yard and picked up pieces of broken glass, Felicia Cason said.
Melissa and Michael Gibbs learned of the tight deadline for the project and enlisted their three boys to lend a hand.
“We just feel like it’s something God’s leading us to do,” Melissa Gibbs said Friday while taking a break from redoing the front steps. “He doesn’t bless us to keep those blessings to ourselves.”
Although life has been difficult for Boyd, she is determined to “Find the Joy in the Journey,” which is the title of a Facebook page in her honor.
In March 2011, she received lungs donated by Leslie Sullivent, a Warner Robins teen killed in a car accident along with her sister, Bridget.
Boyd went into chronic rejection late last summer and has been struggling to survive.
“Whitney believes she was here for a reason and that she is going through this, so she can help others,” Felicia Cason said.
Talking over the ventilator is a struggle for the frail young woman, but she smiled really big when she saw a photo of her new home.
“She was ecstatic,” Franks said of her only child.
A new bedroom is waiting, decorated with owls and Whitney’s name emblazoned on the wall.
Special red electrical outlets have been installed for the medical equipment that keeps her alive.
“My hope is that she will be at home, for however many days she has left, and that she’ll be able to enjoy it,” Franks said.
Boyd wasn’t expected to live this long and is not giving up, nor does she complain.
“I just have an amazing kid,” her mother said.
“Maybe one day we’ll be able to find a transplant facility that will be willing to give her another chance.”
The Casons can’t wait for the homecoming.
“Overwhelming, happy and joyous at the same time,” Felicia Cason imagines Boyd’s arrival. “She’s going to be coming home and be in her own bed and be in her own room and not be in a sterile environment. I honestly think it’s going to do wonders for her health.”
The work has been grueling but rewarding.
“To have complete strangers come and help you out, it restores your faith in humanity,” Franks said.
She is awestruck and cries often over the groundswell of generosity.
“All of the people who put in their blood, sweat and tears to get that ready in this short of time, it’s just absolutely amazing.”