99¢ for the first month
99¢ for the first month

Partnering to help rebuild a community

Tim Croft
The Star
A Black lives matter demonstration took place over three days last week along Avenue B in Port St. Joe.
The usual demonstration as observed on television it was not, no signs of protest, clenched fists or insults hurled, no one was armed.
Instead, that image was erased over three days by more than two dozen volunteers.
Nearly all were of Caucasian persuasion and few from Gulf County.
And they gathered for three days to build atop a previously-poured concrete slab a new two-bedroom home for, get this, a Black man few knew before last week.
“It’s wonderful,” said Ronald Curry as he filmed on his phone this “Blitz Build” that would transform his life.
“I just follow along and try to stay out of the way. God works in wonderful ways. I’ve been waiting for this a long time.”
As in, since Hurricane Michael.
Curry’s home took a beating and working through case manager Vicki Abrams and the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), he had received some assistance.
Most importantly, three different blue tarps as replacements were required to keep him sheltered, using that in the narrowest sense of the word.
That home, if we can call it that, is to be demolished once Curry has moved all his belongings into his new home.
Furnishings are being donated, including a refrigerator donated by Lowe’s.
Back, however, to the partnership which built Curry his home.
The contractor, if one can call it that in this collegial endeavor, was the Hurricane Michael recovery team from the West Alabama First United Methodist Church.
“There are just no words for what we get out of this,” said Bud Mitchell, Construction Coordinator for West Alabama FUMC. “It is such an honor.”
Much of the labor, meanwhile, was provided by roughly 25 volunteers from Square Foot Ministry, Inc., a small construction-based ministry from Fayetteville, GA.
“It’s exciting.” said Jeff Williams, Executive Director of Square Foot Ministry. “It is fun for our volunteers. This part of our DNA.”
Square Foot took root in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and recently undertook construction of more than a dozen homes in Bay County.
And we would be remiss not to note the connection in all this of David Millican, an executive with Chick fill-A.
Millican owns a home on the Cape and has done much to assist in the recovery of the community.
Millican put Williams in touch with Pastor Geoffrey Lentz with First United Methodist Church in Port St. Joe and the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would say, played out last week.
We haven’t finished with key partners.
Also onboard the project was the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH).
“We are the resilience upgrade factor,” said Leslie Chapman-Henderson. “The whole idea is to build back better.”
She noted that it was difficult for faith-based and non-profit groups to fund building upgrades required of specific locations once building to specifications.
In Florida, that is the “Gold Standard” for storm protection, including shutters, proper roof ties, etc.
On Friday of last week, the contractor for installing the shutters arrived from Fort Lauderdale.
“When you ask, nobody says no,” Chapman-Henderson said. “Everybody’s got something to give.
“This is my favorite part of the job. Nothing feels better than helping these folks.”
Still another partner is America’s Home Place and we should also note the local restaurants that provided food along the way.
A key component of the entire “demonstration” was that having been demonstrated to work, more is to come.
Ackerman said the work does not end with Curry’s home.
“We are slated to build six more homes in Gulf County, several of them in Port St. Joe,” he said.
Chapman-Henderson said work on those homes should begin in the fall.