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Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project to dedicate 11 homes Friday

BEAUREGARD — Kim Roberts stood on Lee County Road 36 about three weeks after a tornado killed 23 people in Beauregard and knew there was a way to help.

“When we first got down here and stood on Lee Road 36, where several had died, I think we cried for the first week,” said Roberts, executive director of the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project. “It was so devastating to look at the damage in that one little area.”

After Friday, the Fuller Center will have built and dedicated 17 homes since the third week of March. Except for two homes, all of the structures are for victims of the March 3 tornado that ripped through Beauregard, destroying dozens of houses. The other two were already qualified to receive a Fuller Center home.

Roberts said all the home recipients had to fill out an application and be chosen by a selection committee, just as any typical person requesting help from the Fuller Center. She said families were chosen by the greatest need, and they needed to own their property.

The chosen homeowners will not owe anything on their home, as the structure was sponsored by several entities, including the Hallmark Channel, which paid for three houses.

Several businesses in the Greater Valley helped chip in products and services during this most recent build of 11 homes in five days.

Roberts said Knauf Insulation donated every piece of insulation for every home. Norbord in Lanett gave all the boards for each home. Mr. Ice donated all the ice for the current build and Jerome Bailey of the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office cooked lunch for volunteers on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Upper Room Church in Valley provided lunch and Coca-Cola in West Point donated water, soda and Powerade to the volunteers throughout the build and had employees work a few hours earlier in the week.

Each home built by the Fuller Center is a three-bedroom, two-bathroom structure with a living room, kitchen and laundry facilities. Roberts said several homes were furnished by East Alabama Medical Center and the ones that weren’t will be furnished by High Socks for Hope in Tuscaloosa and the Nick Saban Foundation.

The original plan, Roberts said, wasn’t to build any homes in Beauregard, but to provide East Alabama Medical Center’s Cornerstone Society with the Fuller Center’s disaster team to get started on a rebuild.

EAMC’s Cornerstone Society is an employee assistance program that helps employees who have experienced a crisis in their lives, according to EMAC’s website.

During a meeting with Cornerstone, Roberts was asked to build three homes within the next month. She didn’t immediately respond.

“I got real quiet for a minute,” she said. “Then I had to remember — God said this is what you do. You build houses for those in need.”

After this quick self-reflection, she looked up and agreed to build. She said after those three homes, Cornerstone came back to ask about the Fuller Center’s Legacy Build, which is a nationwide volunteer event that brings in volunteers from around the world.

Roberts said she was able to convince the leaders in the Fuller Center Project to bring the Legacy Build to Beauregard and the numbers of homes rose from three to six, then to eight, then to 10 and finally to 18.

The 18th home will be built in Smith Station in late October.

“How do you tell them no?” Roberts said. “After you stand and see there are no homes where these properties are, we knew we had to do it.”

David Dismukes, assistant to the pastor at Providence Baptist Church in Beauregard, said there was never any doubt that his town would rebuild.

“These hard-working men and women drive pickup trucks, they have chainsaws in the back of those trucks, and they drive tractors,” he said. “Within minutes of the tornado hitting, they were out there getting after it.”

After the tornado, he said Providence came something like an epicenter for the community. That’s where all the relief efforts were located and even the spot for President Donald Trump to visit.

“The empathy of those who were not affected sort of echoed throughout the nation,” Dismukes said. “They heard those echoes, especially for those who have experienced the same thing. They came back to give what they received.”

One of the more encouraging signs of support outside of the presidential visit was the Hallmark Channel. The channel has sponsored three homes in Beauregard, pledging $150,000.

Beyond the sponsoring of homes, Dismukes said Hallmark is going to produce a Christmas special on Beauregard to air during December. Hallmark will also decorate Beauregard with Christmas decorations in November, topped off with a living Christmas tree at the Providence Church.

Although 11 more homes will be dedicated Friday, Dismukes and Roberts both said they aren’t ready to be done.

“When we started this, we knew it was a marathon and not a sprint,” Dismukes said. “We know there is a lot more that needs to be done.”

Roberts said the Fuller Center is continuing to look for more land and sponsors moving forward.

“We hope to continue building after this,” she said.