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The Motel’s Story – If Only I Could Talk

A VISION COMES TO LIFE – SAVING A PIECE OF HISTORY

Turning a House, in this case an historic motel, into a HOME

CROSSROADS CENTER OF HOPE

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It was in May of 2002 when the Lord put it on my heart to go to this old motel and establish a home for at-risk young single mothers and their babies. When I was in my car I had no idea where he was leading me, but, when you follow His lead you will always end up at the right place. And this is where I ended up, in front of a fenced, overgrown old motel that looked as unloved as any place could. However, as I stood there looking at it I never saw what it was, I saw what it could be, a place of safety, love, sanctuary, and most of all a home. I saw the flowers and trees blooming, children playing, mothers visiting, and love abounding. I saw a home, and this is its story.

THE MOTELS STORY – IF ONLY I COULD TALK

This is what I looked like when Cora first saw me, unused and unloved since 1989. From now on you will be able to watch my transformation as I come to life to provide a new beginning to young moms in need.

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Saturday August 5, 2006 was the opening day and the beginning of my new life as a few friends of the ministry put up their sign and the Crossroads Ministry Board pushed open the gate to my new beginning.

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On Saturday, August 12th 2006, the first group that came to work on me were nine boy scouts from Troup 328, led by Scoutmaster Bill Mills and his Assistant Scoutmasters. They worked for hours pulling up, tearing down, and cutting up tons of vines, trees, and overgrown shrubs before settling down to a lunch of Papa Johns delicious pizza. As you can imagine this is not an easy task but the board and I can unanimously say that we have never seen team work such as they showed on this day in such a young group. We had expected them to completely clear away everything from my front building but by lunch time they had not only finished that building but had finished my other longer building in the back. This was a milestone we had not expected but of which we are eternally grateful.

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The End of an Era

On Thursday, September 14th, 2006 at 4 p.m. the ‘Oak Ridge Motel’ sign, with its atom insignia on top, perched on the peak of the old motel. By 7:45 p.m. it was removed. A new era has begun, for this motel will be the new home of Crossroads Ministry and except for the sign it will be renovated to look almost as it did when built in 1949, when for years it housed many scientists and dignitaries from around the world
Words cannot express how the board feels about the generosity of Barnhart Crane and Rigging Company of Oak Ridge who supplied the crane and bucket machines for the removal of the sign, Tommy Thomasson, Manager of Project Services, who pulled the project together and to the three men who gave of their own time, Roger Griffith and Danny Moore who went up in the bucket to disconnect the sign from the structure and Joey Byrge who guided the sign to the ground from the crane base. It was a fascinating feat to watch and without their expertise it would not have been accomplished so seemingly effortlessly and without mishap.

 

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Now that was something to watch…..the sign that had been on the manager’s office building for over 50 years being taken down so that work could begin on that little building, which will become the housemother’s residence. Things are a changin!

While Hazmat worked on decontaminating my two buildings that will house the moms and babies in a healthy environment, others began taking down the top floor of the manager’s building. It had been burned by treasure hunters in the 1990’s thinking there was hidden money in the old safe. Of course, there wasn’t, but that was the rumor and since they couldn’t open it their anger got the best of them and they set fire, probably thinking that would melt the safe, who knows. In any case, a good deal of valuable family heirlooms was destroyed, in addition to the building. This, of course, made the building unsafe and unable to be renovated. It would have to be taken down to the stone and rebuilt. Now that was also something to watch. I could hardly take my eyes (figuratively speaking of course) off the workers. After this work was finished it was time to shut down for the winter.

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A Discovery! The next thing that happened to me was that when my front porch enclosures were removed wonderful ironwork between the doors with a metal porch post supporting the roof was discovered. Quite unexpected, except that I knew it all along! I will look so nice when that is repainted and left exposed.

Volunteers Try To Smother Me!

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In January 2007 a large group of men and women from Kern Memorial Methodist Church in Oak Ridge and Memorial Methodist in Clinton placed plastic sheeting over my roofs for protection from the weather until my two buildings can be renovated. They accomplished this feat with help from Barnhart Crane and Rigging and Roger Griffiths. They were the same ones who took down the sign. It is so nice to have friends in high places! Unfortunately, good ideas don’t always work and in this case the winds come through that area with such force that the plastic was shredded after three months, but that was after most of the bad weather was over.

During the summer a group of women worked weekly trying to clean up the area surrounding the buildings, clearing debris, cutting back overgrowth along the creek and exposing more ‘treasures’, both the flowering kind and stationary kind. Many articles from the early 1950’s have been unearthed from the rubble, one of the original crab orchard stone light posts and a lovely crab orchard stone pond, needing repair, with fountain was discovered in the overgrowth. However, this will be turned into an herb garden with birdbath fountain for safety’s sake.

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The Spring and Summer of 2008 will bring those women back, this time to transform and retake their land. Because the area around the creek was cleared out the birds have begun to return along with frogs, turtles, and lizards. I just love listening to nature, don’t you?

Overrun Again – Will it ever end!

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From 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 20th, 2007 the future Crossroads Ministry facility site was overrun by 52 extremely competent, structured, fun loving, dedicated group of men, women, and children who give their all twice a year to help others in need. This wonderful group of people from Faith Promise Church participate in a ministry called “Operation In As Much.” Twice a year, in the Spring and Fall, they send out approximately 800 people, in all directions to take on projects that otherwise might go undone or be put off for a long period of time.  In my case I had a lot of work to be done inside the buildings to ready them for renovation. The last of the ceilings were taken out, walls were removed so the plumber would have access to the bathroom pipes, water pipes in the attic were taken out, walls scraped, flooring pulled up, and nails pulled out. There was something for everyone to do regardless of height or size. And boy did they work! It was even hard to get them to stop for a yummy pizza lunch provided by ‘Endzone Ellie’s’, of course, it helped that its owners were helping with the work. We also had the help of two bobcats, one for the hauling and dumping of debris and the other, donated for the day by John Deere, was used for taking down the fencing and partially dead trees.
The day couldn’t have been better, with no rain, a slight breeze, and a comfortable temperature. Each group of people had a designated leader so that the work went smoothly, with each person concentrating on his or her designated job. Cora Rhew, President was on hand to run back and forth answering questions and frantically running in front of the bobcat driver so he wouldn’t put the wonderful old cedar trees on the burn pile, but save them so we could use two as replacements for the wood inserts above the mantel in the housemother’s residence and the rest as arbor supports in the walkway crossing the creek from the main facility to the garden area.

All in all it was a wonderful day spent with new friends and at the day’s end we were looking forward to our next time together, in smaller groups, to finish up what was started. For the work these people did for us and the work other volunteers did all over this area, these folks deserve a big hand!!

The noise was so deafening I thought they would never leave, but finally I was able to take a deep breath and begin wondering what will happen in 2008. Will they be back and continue cleaning me up again, with all their laughter and hard work. Will I ever have peace again? When will the flowers bloom and trees blossom? When will the moms and babies come to live in my new rooms so I can hear their laughter when they’re happy and share in their tears when sad? Ah, only God knows the answer to those questions, and he’s not telling, yet!

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What a difference a year makes!

Spring 2008: Ah, the wild cherry trees are blooming with their soft pink petals, haven’t seen them for many years and there are many wildflowers coming up since the crews have been able to clean up much of the overgrowth in various areas around me. The sycamore and weeping willow trees along side the creek are coming back to life. They almost died because of all the vines choking them and the sycamore was zapped by lightening awhile back so the top half was gone. I am so glad to see them greening up again. Japanese iris, forget-me-nots, and cardinal flowers that were planted in the creek area are beginning to bloom. Oh, how I love to see the flowers come since that brings the butterflies, bees, and birds to my yard. But, we are having a very hot time of it so there hasn’t been a lot of action on cleaning up around the front runoff area or the creek. I know my weekly workers will be back but just when, I don’t know.

Here I thought it might have ended, but boy was I wrong!

It’s November and here they come, the same and, oh, some new noisy people with little ones in tow from Faith Promise Church’s ‘Operation In As Much’, must be over 30 of them running around. It is so nice to hear the laughter and talking going on, life has returned, if only for a little while. And, what is this? A bobcat hightailing it around the grounds like he owned it, hauling trees and brush to the burn pile and dumping trash into the dumpster from cleaning out the rooms. Goodness, the dust and noise is sometimes deafening, sure won’t get any rest on this day. But, that’s ok I would rather see and hear the action than be alone. A wonderful home cooked meal was provided by a small group from the church who weren’t able to participate in the labor work. It was so appreciated and smelled so good.

They are still working on the inside of my back ‘ L’ building. It seems to take a very long time to remove piping from the attic and remove block walls. But, I know it will all be worth it and it has to be done so my moms and babies will be safe.

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Again this year, the families divided up and each took a room to work on. It is not many times you see adults, teenagers, and little ones working side by side, each doing what he is able and giving of themselves for the need of others. There is such a variety of work to be done on me so there is something for all ages and sizes. All of the work will make me a better home!

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The saddest thing that happened is that my front porch roofs had to be removed because they were rotting so bad the workers were afraid of the liability to those coming around, invited and not! They will be rebuilt and the old triangle vents put into place, plus part of the culvert in front of the property had to be extended with piping because the area driven over was collapsing, so the planting area was narrowed a bit. Plants that like wet feet will be put in the remaining culvert area to the creek edge and the walls will be lined with crab orchard stone. Can’t wait!

After a day of dirty and heavy work the grounds finally became quiet again around 4:00 p.m. and I could take a deep breath (if I could) and settle back and wait to see what would happen next.Well, next happened in early 2009 when Cora received the blessing of a helper who enjoyed working in gardens as much as she, doing the heavy stuff before planting. So for two days each week Cora and Sharon are fanatical about how much they accomplish. In 10-foot sections they have almost completely stripped the area on the motel side of the creek. It is cut back, weeded, and rounduped so by the end of the summer they will be able to lay newspaper and topsoil for the fall and winter to kill any remaining seeds. The bank in front of the housemother’s residence was planted with vinca after a particularly wet spring and is doing great and Cora has set aside a planting area at her home and is moving perennials into that area for moving to my yard in the spring.

Then on June 13th I was again inundated with the Boy Scouts of Troop 328 here to cleanup the overgrowth behind the back ‘L’ Building. They worked hard cutting back and hauling overgrowth to the burn pile. It always gives me a lot of satisfaction watching young men working on a service project like this and it reminds me of the first time they came to clear my buildings of all overgrowth. It was like old friends coming back and they always make a difference in my appearance, and only for the good!

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Now I am waiting for my next period of excitement. Can’t wait…..so for now I will enjoy my peace and quiet until once again the sounds of laughter and talking will abound on my land.

Winter came and all was quiet.  We had just a dusting of snow this year but would love to have a ‘real’ winter storm again, like we used to!

So, I just thought it was going to be forever quiet, wrong again!  Spring of 2010 brought a new helper, Sue Bryant, since Sharon went back to school, and she and Cora spend every Friday working in the garden area from either 9 a.m. to noon or 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. depending on when they wear out or if it gets too hot.  This spring also brought a way for Crossroads to help out others.  They began working with men and women in the Community Service Program who needed a way to work off community service hours through the Dept. of Probation and Parole.  All together three men and two women came to help Cora and Sue do heavy work in the garden area for two months.  They were good workers but were worn out after a couple of days in the hot sun.  It was funny hearing those young people complain about the heat, their muscles, “are we done yet?”……How times have changed!

 

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After all the work in 2010 the front side of the creek was completed and ready for planting when it cooled down.  Cora and Sue concentrated on the other side of the creek clearing brush, cutting back roots, and building the brush pile (which seems to be overtaking the area).  They had planted cardinal flowers beside the creek and for the first time, in a long time, I saw hummingbirds flitting between the bright red flower heads.  What a joy to behold!

Then in September Cora meets another new friend and Patsy Manzo begins coming to work in the garden.  Now they try to work 9 to 5 on Fridays and since Patsy’s husband gets off at noon on Fridays Tony comes and helps with some of the heavier work.  I love watching the camaraderie between those four…….it is full of talking, laughter, yelling, and lots of grunting, but the work they accomplish makes me so proud to have people bring my home back to life, caring so much about the mission of Crossroads Ministry, and loving every minute of transforming my grounds into a place of beauty.  In the fall they began planting ground cover, bulbs, transplanting from Cora’s house to this area and getting ready to batten down the hatches for winter.

In October they were blessed with another helper.  So for two Friday’s Alex Connelly helped by moving salvaged wood back inside my front building from under the Magnolia Tree in the front of the property and carried crab orchard stone to build a small dam and line the front drainage area to help with stabilizing the sides of the runoff.  Alex chose to work with Crossroads for his church service hours and it was a joy watching a young man work with a heart to serve.  The front of the property is now clear, not completely planted but on its way.

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It’s quiet again……..but that’s ok.  We all need a rest now and then but I did hear rumblings that 2011 is going to be a busy year on my property so I will look forward to hearing the laughter, music, and voices coming from those who care.

Yeaaaa!  No more dusting of snow again this year…..nosiree, we had a wonderful snowy winter and the grounds were covered with that beautiful white layer that only the first snow can bring.  It is always breathtaking, especially from my vantage point of looking over the grounds, how clean and peaceful everything can look…….before reality kicks in!

Now I wait until Spring when my friends come back to continue on their quest of beauty in the midst of chaos and I look so forward to seeing what will happen this year to help me get a new start in life.

 Slowly But Surely

Well, it took long enough but finally I see Cora and Sue back to working along the creek edge weeding and planting.  I was also blessed with four more pair of hands every Friday in 2011.  Patsy worked all day and husband Tony came by after work on Fridays to spend another four hours doing lots of heavy work to help us.  John Phillips lent a helping hand before the heat took over by weed-eating, but most of the time was spent planting more spring color and cutting back areas they had not been able to get to earlier.

It’s April 30, 2011 and, oh my gosh, here come the troops……loud and laughing.  What an unruly group.  I sure hope they aren’t laughing at me!  That would hurt my feelings.  It looks like this is Y-12 Volunteer Day and Tony brought his department to work on the beginning of our attic infrastructure and roofing repair.  But, of course, what we thought would be an easy repair turned out to be much more as more wood had rotted and mildewed than we had seen from the inside looking up, but once the roofing and sheathing was taken off we could really see what needed to be done.  I would watch the men grouping, as they always do, to discuss the unseen issues and I was really scared for a while there but the problem was solved.  After being inspected by a structural engineer and his recommendations given they started working on the roof area.  Whew!!  I didn’t want anything to stop the progress on having my roof repaired so I could be dry inside.

It was a hot, dirty job but the men covered one and a half apartments along the bottom three feet, where most of the leaking was coming from.  They repaired trusses, beams, and replaced the cinderblock topper before putting new sheathing on then a moisture barrier.  A lot was accomplished but there was still a lot to be done.  And the quiet began!

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It was only quiet for two weeks then on May 13, 2011 Tony and Patsy’s Small Group spent another hot Saturday working on the next section of roof area.  While the men did their dirty work, the ladies did their own dirty work while working in the garden area beside the creek cutting back overgrowth next to the back “L” Building

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The rest of the year was spent watching Cora and Sue diligently work on the areas around the creek in the front.  More flowers were blooming and it was so nice looking down on lots of color, watching the birds flit around and hummingbirds at the red cardinal flowers at the creek edge.  Most of what they had been planting were perennials so each year I will see more color.  Such a gorgeous sight!  As fall arrived Tony and Patsy moved to Canada so I lost my four new hands, but I will always remember the time they gave to make my grounds a feast to behold and the time they spent working on my roof area to make my front building weather tight.

Of course it is taking a lot longer to do than initially thought, but, thankfully the groups worked hard in the hot weather of 2012.  The last group to work in April was from Kern United Methodist Church and they were lucky to have a woman, Angi Agle, there to help crawl on the inside rafters while they worked from the outside on ladders.  Sometimes it just takes a woman!

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They were such a blessing and my thanks go out to each group for their faithfulness!  It has been so much fun watching everyone scurrying around, laughing and sometimes muttering to themselves, but I am so excited to see that work is beginning and soon my insides will be dry during storms, I hope!

I was also blessed with the capable hands of John and Steve Whitaker who mowed and edged my grounds this year and will continue whenever the rain stops.

I don’t know what 2013 will bring but I do know that I will see my gardener out working in my gardens again and I am pretty sure there will be more than last year.  Spring should bring many more flowers which also invite the butterflies and birds to congregate, feed, and drink the cool water from the creek.  Oh, it will be so nice to see my friends agian, and many new ones as they come to help me become the place where I can house the young, single mothers and their children so they can begin a new life with love, safety, and security.

Well, as often happens, things didn’t work out as planned.  It was a very hot Spring, then Cora had to have surgery which kept her from working in my gardens, or even her own, all summer, and then we had a very wet fall and winter so my gardens were very full of beautiful flowers and some unruly weeds and, unfortunately, my roof wasn’t worked on either.

I was looking forward to 2014 with lots of workers but that didn’t happen either.  We had a long winter, then a hot icky summer, Sue had to have surgery and could no longer help out so my gardeners fell away, except for a couple of times when Cora came in the early evening, and my gardens languished in the heat but were colorful anyway.  I think some Loves-a-Busting took over, but wildflowers are nice to look at too!

It was really quiet for a while then one day I heard it again, cars rolling in, people running about, measuring and cutting going on, lots of loud noise.  For a while I couldn’t figure out what was going on then I heard that my mower, John, was going to build a bridge over the creek connecting my front garden area and the larger garden area on the other side of the creek for his Eagle Scout Project.  Now, this was realy exciting because I could see what was going on and listen to all the talk.  There was a large crew of leaders and troops working hard and this continued for a few weeks while I watched the creation of a beautiful wooden bridge take place.  I was  proud of the young men doing the work and it turned out to be a work of art.  This was the end to a year-long project where John had to write his idea down, get it approved, design the bridge, build the bridge, and finish by putting all of his information and pictures together to actually receive his Eagle Scout Badge at a special ceremony.  The pictures speak for themselves but you really need to come see and walk on the finished product to appreciate all the work that went into it.

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Whoa, what did I see but Cora and another new friend, Etta, working in the garden area.  Etta also helps with the grants so we can get my buildings all restored and looking beautiful again, actually even better than before.  Oh, I am so glad they are here and they worked so hard to get my garden area cleaned out and in order again.  It took a while but finally I could see my flowers and all my butterflies and birds, plus a few frogs came back to reclaim their territory.  The runoff is getting overgrown with water loving iris so there will be some moving around to bring color to other areas that could use it, and that I have a lot of!

Fall came and with it the rain so the work stopped but I do hope to see lots of activity next year so that I can get my roof fixed.  It has been open to the weather for way too long!

2015 came in with a bang and I got what I wished for…….lots of beautiful snow and a very, very cold winter.  Luckily the freeze didn’t hurt me as far as I can see but if there are many more before my roof gets on there could be damage to my walls that otherwise are in good shape.  I love looking out over my garden areas with the white blanket of snow without a footprint but so look forward to seeing lots of boot prints from the moms and children living with me and knowing what it is like to be in a place of love and security.  It has been way too long for me to stand unfinished and empty when there is so much need in my county.  I am cold inside when I should be warm, and dull and dreary outside when I should have more flowers, vegetables, and fruit trees growing in the large garden area that also sits empty and waiting for loving hands to begin bringing new life to my grounds.

Spring was hardly here but it brought me a bit of trouble, a beaver, who decided the small dam behind my building wasn’t large enough for him so began building it higher, actually about 2 feet above the rim and over the strip of land to my walls.  When he did this it also made the pond expand,which also made it to my walls.  Two people had tried to remove him and couldn’t but finally one of the trappers broke down the dam to the bottom of the creek which then emptied the pond and now it is a sorry mess, but the beaver is gone, thank goodness,  and my workers plan on cleaning up that area in 2016 along with all the other areas needing work.  This will be a year of heavy, but productive work.  It will need lots of hands, a bobcat, and chainsaws to really clean it up but I can’t wait to hear it all begin again.

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Summer came hot and sticky again and being mowed and edged was about all that was mainly accomplished.  I saw Cora working the garden area a couple of times but with the heat and humidity the time was short.  She was able to clean off a bank area, again, so next spring the vinca will be able to bloom in the open and not be hidden by overgrowth, which had already been removed once before.

Unfortunately I heard Cora and a friend talking and looking at my roof on the back building and it will need to be taken down instead of being repaired.  It has just been exposed to the weather for too long.  She is hoping the front building’s roof will still be able to be repaired when money becomes available and, hopefully, that will be in early 2016.  God willing it will happen!!

Summer 2015 came hot and sticky again and being mowed and edged was about all that was mainly accomplished.  I saw Cora working in the garden area a couple of times but with the heat and humidity the time was short.  She was able to clean off a bank area, again, so next spring the vinca will be able to bloom in the open and not be hidden by overgrowth.

Ha! and didn’t we hope that would happen!  The weeds have grown so fast that she was never able to catch up so another summer has come and gone, but that too shall pass, and eventually all will be back in order, just takes time.  I so want to see all my flowers again!

2016 Brings Big Changes!

Oh NO!  I heard Cora and a friend talking and looking at my roof on the back building and, unfortunately, it will need to be taken down instead of being repaired since Crossroads did not receive a grant to do that work.   It has just been exposed to the weather for too long.  So, after a very long time of trying to find someone to come take the roof off, it happened!!

 

 

Whoa!!  Here I was lamenting about losing one of my roofs when on a cold Saturday morning in December who shows up but many beautiful, young women and their photographers.  Cora had a photographer, Jeff Smith of Jeffery G. Photography, call and ask if he could have a photo shoot out at Crossroads Center of Hope and at the same time they would all donate to our Building Fund.  He is always looking for unusual places to shoot and they donate back to the group donating the space.  So, if I could have, I would have jumped up and down, as who doesn’t like beautiful women posing around them.  Cora arrived with homemade brownies and hot chocolate, and that was so appreciated since it was one of our colder days.  Mmmm, for five hours I heard the talking, laughter, and clicking of the shutters as memories were made for the young women and their future in modeling.

To top all that off, the taking down of the back building’s roof, everyone was hoping we would only need to repair the roof on my front building, but, like the back one, it had been too long open to the elements and it, too, needs to be taken off.  The back half was ok but the front was so bad that there was no way to stabilize it while working on it.  They were hoping to slip new trusses in against the original trusses and take out only the rotted portion but it turned out that since the original trusses were stick built, on sight, and additional bracing was added alongside the trusses, they couldn’t be attached as originally planned.  Now it’s back to square one again and all the hard work already done on it was for naught!

 

 

As in the beginning, it has taken time, because contractors only want to tear down buildings, not restore them, even though they were told the circumstances and that I am an historical structure, No. 23 on the Oak Ridge Historical Association List, and I only need fixing, not tearing down and taking history away.  So, after much consternation in trying to find someone to help, we have finally received two estimates on the work to be done.  One includes everything and one only labor, but my Structural Engineer, Lynn, told Cora that Crossroads would save on the cost of building supplies if she did the gathering of prices and since we have a grant to help cover part of the work that is her next step.  Of course, now we have a structural issue.  Since I was built in 1949 the codes were near non-existent so now after the old roof and infrastructure is removed the workers need to go around the building, actually all the buildings as they are worked on, every four feet and install 8’ rebar and mortar down the cinderblock middle opening.  Being old the existing cinderblock has three holes not two, like now.  This all adds cost and time to the job but will also stabilize the structure for the new trusses and roof.  This will also need to be done on the other two buildings to make them all safer and structurally sound.  The roof will be put on by the original roofing company’s estimate and install granite impregnated metal with a lifetime warranty.  This is important because I am situated in an open area and would be open to lots of damage if there were a heavy hailstorm and with asphalt shingle roofing, which is easily damaged, the cost to fix would add up.  As in many cases the cost upfront outways what could happen later and save money in the long run!

 2017 Will Be The Beginning to Bring Life Back

I am so excited that I can hardly speak!  I just found out that work will begin on my front building in September and this is something I have been looking forward to for a long time…..With one grant Crossroads received, the gifts received from the fundraising teas, and additional gifts from those wanting to see Crossroads Center of Hope up and running to help the homeless, at-risk single mothers and their small children, the work to remove the old roof and infrastructure, making my walls structurally sound, and putting up new trusses, sheathing and moisture protector, can finally begin.  Some funds will be left after this first work is completed but a bit more will be needed to be able to put on the roofing material and I know there are lots of hearts out there wanting to see this first step completed.  Of course, this is just the beginning of a long project but one that is so needed in Anderson County and I want to see mothers and children finding a new purpose in their lives and hear the song and laughter that happiness can bring.

 

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