This summer, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, our partner in Jefferson City, Tennessee, Appalachian Outreach (AO),was able to soldier on with its home rehabilitation program ensuring that local residents in need could continue living in the homes they love.
Among them was Mrs. Blackwell who lives in a sleepy neighborhood a few miles outside of the bustling town of Newport — an Appalachian woman through and through, born and raised in the shadow of the Smokey Mountains.
A widow, mother of two, and grandmother to several, she built her house some 60 years ago where she raised her family, providing them a loving home and a wonderful place for her children to grow up, noted AO executive director Jean-Ann Washam.
“If the walls of the house could see, they would have seen the trials of a burgeoning marriage, and also the joys,” commented Jean-Ann. “They would have seen the tears of newborn babes crying for their mother in the middle of the night, and sometimes a little too early in the morning.
“Those walls would have seen the promise of two young girls growing up into young women and the young love of a couple turn into a resilient love tempered by the rains and winds of life.
“And they would have seen the that grief of loss after death does not defeat love of two people.”
The small house on a rural Tennessee road nestled in the hills of the southern Appalachian Mountains has been the residence for Mrs. Blackwell’s entire adult life, but much more than that “It has been home.”
And today, thanks to the supporters of Americans Helping Americans® who enabled us to provide AO with the grant funding necessary to purchase shingles and other materials, a group of volunteers this summer was able to repair her leaking roof.
“Her new roof will ensure that the many memories encapsulated in the walls of her home are preserved,” says Jean-Ann. “It will ensure she has the ability to make many more memories in the years to come in the twilight of her life.”
Another home AO was able to repair this summer belongs to Tonya who was reluctant to ask for help for herself because she felt that there were many others had greater needs.
“Yet there was no denying that Tonya’s home needed major repairs,” reported Jean-Ann.
Water had come in through a window over time and in addition to rotting away, there was a serious potential for mold as well as the worn floor coverings which were coming up in some places creating a hazard for tripping.
“However, one of the most critical problems was the lack of water in the bathroom,” Jean-Ann told us. “Tonya had been given a vanity but the plumbing was not functional.
“It would have been easy for her to become overwhelmed and give up, yet Tonya had not.”
Jean-Ann recruited a group of volunteers who were ready, willing, and able to give of their time and skills to help this woman in need, with the materials supplied with the funding provided by Americans Helping Americans®.
“The team got so excited that once they finished the job, they decided to paint as well. The home was transformed in a matter of days.”
But, Jean-Ann added, “more importantly, so was Tonya. The team of volunteers helped her to realize that she was worth someone helping.”
And to the supporters of Americans Helping Americans®, Jean-Ann wanted to express her sincere gratitude for making it all possible for both Tonya and Mrs. Blackwell.
“All of these families are very low income and could not afford to have had these much-needed repairs done on their own. Several of them have disabilities that prevent them from performing repairs on their homes.
“Through this grant, we were able to make their homes safe for them. We would not have been able to have done all these repairs — including roof and gutter repairs, painting, exterior deck construction and repairs, carpet removal, and new flooring installed — this year with without the support of Americans Helping Americans®.
“You are making a huge impact in East Tennessee.”