June 21, 2014

Citizen of the Week: Mary West

— They say home is where the heart is, and sometimes it takes a big heart to make a home.

Our story starts with Mary West taking an agency tour with the United Way of Northwest Georgia, where she and her coworkers at Shaw Industries were introduced to multiple organizations partnered with United Way that were in need of volunteers. While visiting the Salvation Army, they were informed about the organization’s transitional home program. At that time, there were four transitional homes in use, with a fifth prospective home in desperate need of renovation.

When West heard about the difficulty the Salvation Army was having with fixing up the house to become a transitional home, she instantly inquired about how she could help.

The house, which is on Penrose Street in Dalton, had been donated to the Salvation Army by Ken Boring, a former board member, who purchased the property to make it a part of the transitional living program.

West recognized that upgrading the house would help the Salvation Army give aid to families in need of emergency food, lodging and counseling while seeking employment, education or ways to find another home.

“Mary took the project and ran with it,” said Nancy Soto, a social services case manager for the Salvation Army. “Before she was involved, we thought we wouldn’t be able to do it. We almost leveled the house after it sat unoccupied for two or three years.”

West rallied the troops and teamed up with some of her coworkers, working for almost a year to completely restore the house. The group donated countless hours and materials to ensure that the transitional home would be fit to house a family comfortably.

The volunteers painted, replaced air conditioning and heat, fixed the roof, replaced sheet rock, repaired piping and utilities, and put in new carpet and window trims.

“They basically did everything but knock out the walls,” said Soto.

West and her team were recently recognized for their work during a ceremony honoring Boring.

“From the time she first heard about the house needing renovation, she was completely ‘gung ho’ about the project. On the day of the ceremony, she was still making little changes and decorative touches,” said Soto.

For rallying volunteers to make a derelict house a fully renovated home, The Daily Citizen names Mary West Citizen of the Week.