November 2, 2013

‘God’s hand at work’

‘Generous’ home renovators still need volunteers to finish job

By Christopher Smith

—  Outside Carol Walker’s home in Rocky Face, there’s a steep staircase that could be formidable for anyone to walk up. For Walker, a 71-year-old widow, it’s become dangerous.

“Her neighbors find her fallen on those stairs a lot,” stepdaughter Beverly Hawkins said. “It’s just been one thing after another for her lately. She’s just having a hard time walking.”

That’s when Jim Boyd of Rebuilding Hope, a local nonprofit that renovates houses for people in need, came into the picture.

Boyd, director of the nonprofit, is leading a team of volunteers from Maryland this week in transforming the basement into a place where Walker can live, forgoing the need to go up and down the stairs.

And the help couldn’t come at a better time, Hawkins said, after her stepmother received injuries from a car wreck, making it even harder for her to walk.

Walker is currently at a rehabilitation center in Dalton for her injuries, Hawkins said, and is expected to come home before Christmas.

Seeing strangers rallying around her stepmother by building the new living area — complete with kitchen and bathroom — gives Hawkins “faith in people and faith in God,” she said.

“I just feel like it’s God’s hand at work. It means a lot to me, to us. My reaction when I saw the generous work they’ve done for the first time (on Thursday), I just started crying. ... It gives her something to try to get better for,” she said.

And the only cost Walker’s family and friends have to pay is for materials. The labor, typically the brunt of most construction costs, is free, Hawkins said.

“These people are just volunteers,” she said. “They don’t know us.”

So what brings the group from Maryland to the back roads of Rocky Face?

“We feel we have to help those in need outside our corner of the world,” volunteer Fred Koch said. “It’s the commission that Christ gave us as Christians: to go out into the world and help. That’s why we are here.”

Boyd, who grew up in Maryland before moving to Dalton, said he still has connections to some of the churches there, including Safe Harbor Presbyterian Church in Stevensville, where Koch attends.

Those churches have been sending volunteers down through Rebuilding Hope for several years, Boyd said.

Koch said his first visit to Georgia was rebuilding homes in Ringgold two years ago after the area was devastated by a tornado in 2011.

“We really enjoy the work,” he said. “It’s fulfilling.”

But the work isn’t over, Boyd said. With most of the volunteers preparing to leave Monday, Boyd is seeking local volunteers to help finish the basement, he said.

Hawkins said she’s recruited some family and friends to take over when the volunteers leave, but as volunteer Judy Burns said, “This man needs more help.”

Boyd said anyone interested in helping on Walker’s house, or to help on future projects, can contact him at (706) 934-9261 or by email at

“This is a happy story,” Hawkins said of the new home. “It’s a very happy story. It just shows the goodness in other people’s hearts. And I hope that it shows people that they can help others as well.”