- Associated Press - Sunday, January 8, 2017

HOPE MILLS, N.C. (AP) - Many people have greeted the new year with champagne, black-eyed peas, lots of resolutions.

For one Hope Mills family, new kitchen cabinets, new stainless steel appliances and the fresh smell of new construction have accomplished that feat even better.

Stacey and Odie Parker were left nearly speechless by the kindness of others after Hurricane Matthew destroyed almost everything in their home in the Creek Bend subdivision.

And those who helped them were overcome as well.

“Just about everyone I asked to help said, ‘yes,’” said Julie Martin Richard, who helped spearhead the effort. “I would be in tears every day.”

It all started Oct. 9, the day after Hurricane Matthew devastated much of the county. Stories have abounded of kind-hearted people who pitched in to help.

The agents of Keller Williams Realty were among them.

“Housing, the condition of housing and the preservation of neighborhoods isn’t just a an afterthought to real estate folks,” real estate agent Trisha Taris said. “It’s top of mind all the time.”

A group of Keller Williams agents set off to help an office manager’s father, who had been affected by flooding that followed the hurricane.

“But it turned out that he was OK,” Richard said. “So we just went door to door trying to find people who needed help.”

It wasn’t long before a neighbor directed them to the Parkers.

The Parkers, the agents were told, are a family of four who maintain a positive attitude no matter what comes their way. Faced with having lost so much in the flood, the Parkers nevertheless were out and about making sure their neighbors were safe.

“There’s just something special about this family,” Richard said. “To have such devastation and still have an upbeat attitude is amazing.”

The agents let the Parkers know that Keller Williams wanted to help. For the next eight weeks, while the family slept on air mattresses in a rented apartment, volunteers got busy.

Richard and her husband, Jonathon, a building contractor, led the way. While she began making calls for donations, he began the demolition work.

“He took eight weeks off and did nothing but this,” Julie Richard said. “But that’s what he wanted to do.”

At the top of the list was a sturdy wheelchair ramp for the Parkers’ 20-year-old son, a double amputee. Richard also reconfigured interior doorways so a wheelchair could comfortably fit through.

Guardian Property Management donated new appliances and Webb Carpet provided new flooring. Re-Store Warehouse chipped in a variety of supplies and Gerry Lee Electric did the wiring.

When Richard was searching for cabinetry, she stopped by an estate sale at St. James Lutheran Church in Haymount in Fayetteville.

Take whatever you need, she was told.

“When it came time for the heating and air and ductwork, I called Will Blanton at Blanton’s Heating and Air,” she said. “When I asked him for an estimate, he told me, ‘Oh, there’s no charge.’

“The response was overwhelming. Everything we needed, someone came up with.”

Mike Elliott painted the interior and exterior and Knockout Lawncare worked on the landscaping.

“I went to get a fixture at Mid-South Lighting,” Richard said. “When I told them what I was doing, Chris Birk gave me a whole slew of fixtures.”

Determined to get the Parkers back in their home before Christmas, volunteers intensified their efforts as the holiday approached. The heating equipment went in one frigid Saturday morning.

“It was raining and 25 degrees and these guys were up early on their day off,” Julie Richard said.

On Dec. 17, Keller Williams presented the Parkers with the keys to their refurbished home. St. James pastor John Locke said a blessing.

Inside, a Christmas tree was decorated with new ornaments as well as family ornaments volunteers had salvaged and cleaned.

“Those are all my favorite ornaments,” said 17-year-old Trevon Parker.

The list goes on of people who helped. Manna Church, RG Williams Construction, Mitchell’s Plumbing, Cooper Can Do It, All in One Construction,

Tammy Lyne of KW Pinehurst who donated new furniture, and Jeanie Taylor of A Blessing Boutique.

But, really, for everyone involved, making one family’s new year bright seemed to be all the thanks they needed.


Information from: The Fayetteville Observer, https://www.fayobserver.com

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