In fall 2009, I wrote about an ambitious community project to renovate the home of Travis LaFollette and his family.
Travis and his wife, Crystal, had purchased a piece of property with a small home and big plans for their future.
But Crystal died of cancer in 2007, and with four children to raise on his own, Travis had neither time nor money to make improvements. So he and his four children continued to live in a two-bedroom, one-bathroom home in need of repairs.
After the LaFollette family was turned down by a popular home makeover television program, their church, Mission Baptist in Locust, decided to step in and take on the project themselves. They began with a big barbecue fundraiser that brought in about $50,000, which became the budget for the LaFollette Family Build Project.
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Thanks to lots of donations of time, supplies and labor, that budget provided the LaFollette family with a home conservatively valued at $150,000. Now each child has their own bedroom, and the family spaces include a laundry room, an updated kitchen and plenty of space.
I talked with Greg Lucas, one of the core group of volunteers for the project. He told me how their scope changed pretty quickly.
Originally, they planned to close in the porch and finish what Travis had already started. Instead, they launched a major construction project that doubled the size of the family's home.
Lucas called the contributions from the community "remarkable." Other churches got involved; individuals came to help. Construction workers, because of the slow economy, were available and willing to donate their skills so the work could be done professionally. Even in a depressed economy, businesses were willing to donate materials so that the project could be finished under budget.
At an open house at the LaFollettes' new home on Jan. 2, Lucas estimates, somewhere between 100 and 150 people packed into the house to celebrate the completion of the project.
Lucas called the project a real test of faith for the church and volunteers. They began with nothing but accomplished a lot. Now he and his core group are looking for another project to tackle - probably something smaller - but they feel led to continue this good work in their community.
And he emphasizes that this was a community project. Their goal was reached only because so many people provided help in whatever ways they could.
If you'd like to know more about the Mission Build Project at Mission Baptist Church, visit www.missionchurch.org. And if you'd like to know more about the Lafollette Family Build Project, check out the "LaFollette Home" page on Facebook.
It really is remarkable to see what a devoted group of people can do when they make a commitment to try. Tell me about people you know who are making a difference. I'd love to tell their stories.