Church completes home renovations for Hawkins couple

Jeff Bobo • Aug 7, 2017 at 10:00 PM

BULLS GAP — While Gary Brooks was still employed, he couldn't find the time to finish renovating his home, and after he got sick he had plenty of time and no money.

Fortunately for Gary and his wife, Jayne, a church mission team from Mississippi found the money and made the time earlier this summer to complete a renovation he started in 2008, throwing in a few improvements that weren't expected.

By the time Gary found himself no longer able to continue working on his home on Summitt Hill Road near Bulls Gap, he'd replaced the windows and installed insulation, but he hadn't put up any walls or ceiling, leaving the insulation exposed.

Gary and Jayne are both 64, and both suffer serious illnesses, and that’s how they’ve lived for nearly a decade. Gary is on the waiting list for both a heart and liver transplant, while Jayne suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The church mission team was part of the Rogersville-based Of One Accord ministry's "Operation Good Neighbor" program, which recruits churches and Christian groups from across the Southeast to perform home renovations in Hawkins County for the elderly, disabled and disadvantaged.

It's been a month since the Calvary Baptist Church from Columbia, Miss., completed the project at the Brooks residence. And while it's certainly a more healthy environment for them to live in, it's also been a tremendous boost to their spirits.

"They done a very nice job," Gary told the Times-News on Monday. "They were very kind. I'm sure it will help (their health). Breathing in the insulation didn't help, and (Jayne) has noticed a difference over the past month."

Gary and Jayne were home for the mission team's first two days on the job, but they had to leave for an appointment at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. They got back home a day after the mission team had finished and left and were surprised by how much had been done.

Operation Good Neighbor Director Mickey Wilcox said the Mississippi mission team made a total transformation on the Brooks' home in four days.

The first time he went to the Brooks' house, Wilcox noted how unhealthy it must be for the couple living in air that was thick with fiberglass insulation dust.

"Mr. and Mrs. Brooks didn't ask for help," Wilcox said. "They were referred to us by his home health care nurse. I called them to see if it would be OK if I came out and gave them an application. They filled it out, and we were able to get some limited funding through the Carol M. Peterson Housing Fund, which is a grant for people in need."

The mission team felt that God was leading them to do this project, Wilcox said. Aside from working on walls and ceilings, they installed new cabinets, a kitchen sink and re-did some of the electric work and some of the plumbing.

"Mr. and Mrs. Brooks had resigned themselves to: 'Life is good, this is what we have, this is what we'll work with,' " Wilcox said. "It was one of the most joyful moments — it was almost overwhelming for them to see their house transformed like that."

Although the mission team was gone by the time they got back home, Gary and Jayne have called them twice to thank them for their work.

They didn't have a kitchen sink for the decade they lived in that house, and always did dishes in the bathroom sink. They were delighted to find that sink, cabinets, and flooring when they got home from Vanderbilt, even though that was not part of the original plans.

The mission team was staying in Church Hill, and a neighbor came by to meet them one day. Mission team members described for this neighbor the project and the fact that there was no kitchen sink or cabinets.

The neighbor took them to his barn where he happened to have a brand new sink and cabinets stored in the loft that he was willing to donate to the project.

"We were really surprised when we came in," Gary said. "We were there the first two days and saw what their plans were, but I didn't know they were going to do as much as they did. They did a really nice job.”

Gary added, "We've been very blessed. I tried to help everybody around that I could when I was able, and now it's coming back to me."