Group effort revives home

Hollywood Mayor Jacqueline Heyward (center) introduces members of the community to the volunteers from Virginia who are helping renovate a resident’s home.

Hollywood -- Town resident Linda Youngblood was overwhelmed when she met the people who made the dream of renovating her home come true.

"I'm so happy," she said. "I've been trying to get this fixed for a very long time."

A group of 28 students from Virginia arrived in Charleston over the weekend, began working on her home Monday and will stay until Saturday.

Those students, along with town Mayor Jacquelyn Heyward, Linda Gadson of Rural Mission and representatives of Neighbors Helping Neighbors, were at Manor Park on Wednesday night to meet each other, as well as Youngblood.

Youngblood had applied for housing renovation assistance through the town in association with Neighbors Helping Neighbors, a nonprofit that rebuilds homes in the community.

Blind in one eye and a dialysis patient, Youngblood was living in a home in poor condition and without a bathroom, so the town and its partner organizations stepped in to help her.

"Helping out builds an atmosphere of giving back. We all have something to give," Heyward said.

Gadson, executive director of Rural Mission, said her organization has been partnering with Youth Missions Organization in Virginia for 25 years.

Father Chris Pierce, the YMO founder, said the group's goal is to transform communities and end poverty by breaking barriers formed by race and class. He said that when people understand each other and begin to help one another, poverty will diminish.

"Houses come and go, but community lasts forever," Pierce said.

All 28 YMO students had to raise $650 to pay for their travel, food and the cost of construction. The project to renovate Youngblood's home also gets funding from the other partnering organizations and other sponsors.

"We believe in serving others and building community through church," said Chris Working, youth director of St. James Episcopal Church in Warrenton, Va. "It's a life-changing event."

The group began working on the home Monday. Instead of just adding a bathroom, they will renovate Youngblood's entire home. They are adding an addition to the back of the home where the bathroom will go, and will be installing a new septic system.

Not all of the renovations will be done in a week, so Neighbors Helping Neighbors and Rural Mission will continue the project, Heyward said.

"We're a family and this is one way we show it," town Councilwoman Annette Sausser said.

Youngblood's family was with her to meet the volunteers.

"It's a blessing from God. She has needed help for a long time, and this is something I will never forget," family member Betty Youngblood-McDonald said.