Chattahoochee Fuller Center to build several homes in Beauregard

Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, April 23, 2019

LANETT — The Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project (CFCP) had a very busy year in 2018, building four new homes in the Greater Valley Area.

The plan heading into 2019 was to build a new ReUse Store on Gilmer Avenue in Lanett and to work on some rehab projects and a Block of Blessings in West Point.

All that changed when a tornado hit Beauregard on March 3.

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Because of its proven record in building new homes for people of low to moderate income, the CFCP has been chosen to head up the construction of three new homes in Beauregard in early May and six to eight more this fall.

“This will be the first time we have gone outside our immediate area to build homes,” said CFCP Executive Director Kim Roberts at Thursday’s West Point Rotary Club meeting. “We’d worked with the East Alabama Medical Center on some of our previous builds in the Valley, and now they want to help them in Lee County.”

Roberts and her assistant, Robin Pierre, recently visited the Beauregard area to see the storm damage and talk to the residents.

Roberts said it was a numbing experience to see the devastation.

“Everything many people had was torn apart and has been pushed to the road,” Roberts said in a wavering voice, trying to contain the heartbreak she’d witnessed. “You see lots of empty spaces where a home or a trailer sat just a few weeks ago.”

They were accompanied on their visit by the Rev. Randall Hamer, who has been counseling residents on behalf of the Freedom in Christ organization.

They were at what was left of the mobile home residence of Napoleon Darby when the bulldozers pushed in and up to the road. Darby was distraught with seeing it, but Hamer comforted him by taking his hand and praying with him.

Many of the Beauregard residents who lost their homes are staying at no cost to them in apartments provided by MEND, a charitable arm of EAMC.

They have been provided new furniture they will be able to keep when they move into a permanent home sometime within the next year.

Darby has chosen to stay in a travel trailer on his home site to stay near his dogs Rock and Smokey.

“Napoleon lost the middle portion of his trailer,” Roberts said. “Both ends were left standing.”

Darby is related to Maggie Robinson, an EAMC nurse who was killed when the tornado destroyed the home she was in.

She was living with her brother, Wayne, who survived the storm because the barn he was in remained largely intact.

“Maggie had gone outside to tell him a tornado was heading straight for them,” Roberts said. “He told her he’d wait it out in the barn, and she went back to the house. She was killed when the house was torn apart.”

“We will build a new house for Wayne in the same place,” Roberts said.

The CFCP will be building a new home for Darby, too.

“We will also pour a concrete slab for a new barn.”

A third home will be built for Willie and Betty Harris. They were living on Lee Road 166, about eight miles from the location on Lee Road 36, where Darby and the Robinsons lived.

The tornado ripped off the top of their mobile home on that first Sunday in March. They’ve been living in one of the MEND apartments since then.

“More than 20 families are living in these apartments,” Roberts said. “They can stay there up to one year, which will be plenty of time for them to find another place. They can keep the furniture when they move. Willie and Betty are so excited that they will be getting a safer home. These people are wonderful,” Roberts said. “They are humble and appreciative of your helping them.”

Hamer will serve as the general project manager for the upcoming build.

“Steve Tramell will be a project manager working alongside Randall,” Roberts said. “He has been so helpful. We would be lost without him.”

Weather permitting, walls of the new homes will be assembled at Providence Baptist Church in Beauregard at 10:30 a.m. CDT on Saturday, April 27.

“Pastor Rusty Sowell has opened his doors to the Fuller Center, and we appreciate that,” Roberts said.

Athletes from Auburn and Alabama will be putting them together that day.

“It’s so good they will be doing this,” Roberts said. “They know how devastating tornadoes can be, and they wanted to help.”

Home construction will start on Monday morning, April 29. Serving as the house captains will be Michael Dilworth Construction, R&D Builders, and Landmark Builders. Plenty of volunteer labor will be there to help them.

“We are looking at somewhere between 100 to 150 volunteers,” Roberts said. “They will include local people from the Beauregard community, along with employees of EAMC, Norbord and Knauf. Norbord will supply the OSB and Knauf the insulation. We appreciate that.”

“I am excited to have the house captains we will have,” Roberts said. “They are in the home construction business.”

CFCP President Curt Johnson said that Beauregard is a caring community that goes way above and beyond in taking care of each other.

“All 23 people killed by the tornadoes lived in the Beauregard area,” he said. “Up to 300 homes were impacted that day, but by nightfall everyone had places to stay. Some people spent an hour-and-a-half cutting people out of houses that had fallen in on them. Emergency vehicles couldn’t get into the community right away, but local residents with chainsaws cleared the way for them. Lots of people were helping each other in the aftermath of the storm.”

Johnson said the goal of the CFCP is to have three families living in three new homes in three months.

EAMC’s Cornerstone Foundation will be paying for the three homes.

Roberts invites people to take a trip to Beauregard to see for themselves what people from the community have endured.

“To get a feeling for what they’ve gone through, you need to go there to see it,” she said. “These people have a long way to go to get their lives back, and we are so proud to be a part of that.”

The plan if for work to start on the three new homes on April 29 and to be completed by Friday, May 3.

There will be some loose ends to tie up before the families can move it but that should happen by late May or early June.

This first phase of new home building will lead to a massive effort in September.

“The 2019 Millard Fuller Legacy Build will be taking place in Beauregard,” Roberts said. “We will have the full support of the Fuller Center’s national office. We will be building at least six new homes and possibly up to eight. Registration will be opening next week at fuller for those who want to volunteer to help that week.”

A kickoff dinner will be held on Sunday, Sept. 29 and construction will start the next day. Work will finish on Friday, Oct. 4.

“This is something that’s bigger than we are,” Roberts said. “When you see something like this coming together, you know that God is behind it. We have been so blessed with donations and volunteers. I know that Maggie (the EAMC nurse) is looking down on us from heaven and smiling because we are building her brother a new home. It’s amazing how God sends you people. If you put yourself out there, God will open doors.”