From old to new

Ralph B. Davis rdavis@civitasmedia.com

October 25, 2013

GRETHEL — Up until earlier this year, when it had to be demolished due to black mold, Brenda Akers had one of the oldest houses in the valley.

Now, she has one of the newest, thanks to some strong hands and big hearts.

Akers watched last week as volunteers started on Monday with nothing but an empty lot where her old house once stood, and finished the week with the shell of her new house nearly complete. The progress and the generosity behind it left Akers at a loss.

“There’s no words I can use to say how thankful I am,” Akers said. “Me, I’d rather help someone else.”

Akers had to watch this spring as her house was demolished, overtaken by black mold which she now says had caused her several health problems. She did not have a plan or the means to build a new home, but as spring turned to summer, and summer turned to fall, she remained hopeful a solution would arise.

That solution manifested itself through the Hand in Hand Ministries in Auxier, which made contact with Stewards of Appalachia, a Mount Washington group affiliated with the Knights of Columbus. The groups were able to coordinate with donors to supply all of the materials needed to build Akers a new house. Big Sandy Community and Technical College chipped in, supply electrical students to wire the building.

“You see a lot of corruption these days,” said Glenn Greenwell, of Mountain Washington, a general contractor who volunteers with Stewards of Appalachia. “It’s good to see people come out to help.”

Gary Kehne, of Taylorsville, said he volunteered to help Akers simply out of a love for helping people in need.

“St. Joseph was a carpenter,” Kehne said. “There are many carpenters in our religion, and that’s what I am.”

In addition to building Akers’ new home, the groups also worked on four other small projects in Floyd County.

Akers said she would love to be able to move in to her new house on her birthday — Nov. 3 — but realized it probably would not be finished by then. Still, as hammers pounded all around her, Akers was delighted by the progress, a broad smile crossing her face and joy lighting her eyes.

“If I’m in before Thanksgiving, if I’m in before Christmas, I’m happy,” she said.