More mission groups needed to provide home repairs for Hawkins County needy

Jeff Bobo • Updated Jul 6, 2017 at 1:31 PM

ROGERSVILLE — Gary Brooks was in the process of remodeling his Bulls Gap home when he was struck by an illness that has since required him to be placed on the waiting list for both a heart and liver transplant.

The residence’s interior walls had been removed, leaving the insulation exposed.

Brooks’ heart is down to 10 percent effectiveness, and he was placed on a pump to circulate his blood until a transplant becomes available.

His wife also suffers from severe asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The couple, both in their mid-60s, were approved for help through the Rogersville-based Of One Accord ministry’s Operation Good Neighbor (OGN) program which brings mission groups to Hawkins County from across the Southeast to perform badly needed home repairs and renovations for the disabled, elderly and disadvantaged.

Although the Brookses had stapled plastic over the insulation, OGN Director Mickey Wilcox said it was an extremely unhealthy situation, especially for a couple with their health problems.

“I walked in there just to inspect the home, and I came out choking,” Wilcox said. “You could visibly see the insulation particles floating in the air. When the mission team came in, they finished a couple of sections that still needed insulation installed.”

Two weeks ago, a mission group from Calvary Baptist Church in Columbia, Miss., spent a week at the Brooks residence and not only installed new walls, but made several other badly needed improvements.

Then the mission group installed the interior walls, a new ceiling, some interior wiring, made sure the heat was up to code, and then put in new flooring and cabinets.

Of One Accord raised $1,689 for the Brooks project, and the mission group contributed another $1,000. But the real contribution was the labor provided by the Mississippi church members.

“They had 640 man-hours on this project over the course of that week,” Wilcox said. “When you measure that against the established value for volunteer hours, that works out to about $16,000 worth of labor. This is a major improvement for their health and welfare.”

OGN is about halfway thought its summer program, which has so far seen 84 volunteers from central Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and South Carolina investing more than 2,500 man-hours in Hawkins County projects, with a combined value for labor and materials of more than $75,000.

Other projects that have been completed so far in 2017 include a bathroom renovation for a 74-year-old retired concrete finisher from Rogersville who is mostly bedridden because his knees were ruined by decades of work.

He’d been unable to use his own bathtub because he couldn’t get in it, so a mission group from Garrison Baptist Church from Dayton, Tenn., installed a handicap accessible shower and toilet in his home. They also repaired a large hole in his floor and installed a ramp on his front porch.

Another mission team installed a ramp on the porch of a mentally and physically challenged Rogersville man.

Two separate mission teams are helping give an elderly Surgoinsville veteran a new foundation to his home, although weather has delayed progress for several weeks.

And a mission team from South Carolina is helping a Sneedville family of six, including four children, whose home was ravaged by black mold. They receiving all new insulation, interior walls and ceilings.

But, for every happy ending brought about by the OGN program this year, there are 10 approved projects that won’t get done.

Of One Accord’s renovation and repair mission program has existed for nearly three decades, and in its heyday throughout the 2000s it completed 30-40 projects every summer.

For the summer of 2017, Wilcox has more than 100 projects that have met all criteria and are approved, and 50 of those have serious needs. But, due to limited resources and manpower, only the 11 in most need made the cut for 2017.

Wilcox said the number of outside missions willing to come to Hawkins County has declined drastically. He said that being added to a directory that mission teams use for planning future trips will hopefully increase the number of missions coming in 2018.

It’s hard to ask local churches to pick up the slack because they already do so much to serve other Of One Accord programs such as Christmas for the Children and the Food Pantry, as well as their own projects.

But Wilcox said he is definitely open to any local churches that want to participate in the summer mission program and help with local repairs and renovations.

“If there’s a local church or group that wants to help, we have lots of projects that can be done with minimal skills in just a day or two,” Wilcox said. “A lot of our clients have a need that just takes a little skill and a little time.”

Wilcox added, “I think a lot of local churches don’t realize this is a resource available to them if they have a men’s group or a youth group that wants to volunteer.”

Mission projects are screened by income, age and disabilities, and always involve home visits prior to approval.

Anyone interested in volunteering for a mission project or making a financial contribution can contact Wilcox at (423) 523-4712.