Davidson town planning director Kris Krider considered the bustling scene around him and concluded, “It almost feels like a Dickens novel – ‘It was the worst of times and the best of times.’”
He was commenting on the fact that an impressive number of hard-hit construction firms had forgotten their woes and come together to provide a “complete makeover” for the home of longtime Davidson resident Benny Covington. Mr. Covington, a 67 year old who is partially disabled and lives on public assistance, owns his own home on Delburg Street. But the home had fallen into terrible disrepair since Mr. Covington was financially unable to maintain it.
See a photo gallery below.
The Davidson Housing Coalition (DHC) became aware of Mr. Covington’s plight about three years ago, and tried through its HAMMERS emergency repair program to help him out. But to repair the damage would cost far more than the $5,000 maximum HAMMERS limit. The electrical system was dangerously outdated. Parts of the floor were rotted through. Mr. Covington hung blankets to try to keep the cold from coming through the drafty windows. When the plumbing system fell apart, the Town of Davidson installed a portable toilet in his back yard for his use.
But Mr. Covington refused to consider selling the house and moving to a rental unit, since he grew up in Davidson and feels a strong sense of place.
Local real estate agents re-roofed the home last year as a public service project, but that was just a first step. The DHC staff investigated the possibility of getting money to fix the home through a reverse mortgage. But that didn’t work because the home wasn’t insured.
The town deferred condemning the home in hopes a solution could be found.
A CROWD CELEBRATES
Almost 100 people, including crews from four TV stations and several area newspapers, showed up at Mr. Covington’s house Friday morning to celebrate the fact that Charlotte builder Jim Burbank of Saussy Burbank/JCB Urban had stepped forward to provide that solution.
Last holiday season Mr. Burbank responded to a HAMMERS appeal to help out in a similar situation. In a holiday good Samaritan gesture, Mr. Burbank and industry friends completed extensive renovations for a Huntersville homeowner at no charge.
As the Davidson Housing Coalition staff was recently despairing over Mr. Covington’s case, Mr. Burbank called the office and asked if DHC knew of another charity case his firm could tackle this year. Bingo! Mr. Burbank inspected the Covington house and agreed to take on the job.
For about a month Burbank’s crew organized subcontractors to completely gut and rebuild the interior of Mr. Covington’s house. The work included new plumbing, electrical, and heating/air condition systems, new floor system and floor covering, new sheet rock throughout, new windows, and new kitchen appliances and cabinets.
“The fact that the roof and vinyl siding were fairly new and kept it waterproof had helped, but we had to redo everything else,” said Rich Doerfler of Saussy/Burbank. “It’s a brand new house on the inside.”
That included several pieces of new furniture – a sofa, a new bed, and kitchen appliances. The DHC staff even put a small Christmas tree in the living room to celebrate the season.
Mr. Burbank, president of Saussy Burbank/JCB Urban, offered brief remarks during the ceremony. He expressed his gratitude name-by-name for the dozen or so subcontractors and building suppliers who donated material and time to provide Mr. Covington with the Christmas miracle.
Mr. Burbank said about 100 laborers had been involved at one time or another, and donations of their material and time covered the estimated $20,000 value of the job.
Many of those arriving for the event brought along gifts of housewares for the six-room home.
Zach Jakob, the HAMMERS coordinator for DHC, was overwhelmed at the generosity of Burbank and other builders. Mr. Jakob said, “First they asked ‘What can I do?’ and when they finished that they asked ‘What more can I do?’ It’s been a long three years, but we’re overjoyed to be bringing Benny back home.”
AN AUTHENTIC DAVIDSONIAN
Davidson Mayor John Woods has known Mr. Covington all his life, and was proud to see the community come together to help an authentic “town character.”
Mr. Covington grew up on Delburg Street just a few houses down from his present home. A stroke at age 15 left him partially disabled, but seemed to plant a permanent sunny disposition in his heart. Mr. Covington enjoyed a long career sweeping floors in mills in Davidson and Mooresville, and at one stretch worked 28 years without missing a day. Before age began to limit his mobility, he and his grin were widely recognized around town as he strolled through the streets on his way to work or to run errands.
Mr. Covington lived with a sister while the work was being done, and refused to visit the work site. “I didn’t want to see it until it was all done,” he said.
And what did he think when he arrived on Friday morning for the reception? “I didn’t even think it was my house!”
Mayor Woods concluded, “It’s a remarkable story, and a real tribute to all those who recognized and responded to a sad situation, selflessly working to turn it into this holiday celebration.”
April 25, 2009, Realtors swing hammers on regional volunteer day
Dec. 19, 2008, Home (repair) for the holidays, thanks to Hammmers at no charge.
Photos by Bill Giduz, for DavidsonNews.net. Click any image to launch a slide show.