From left are Trish Parks, Neighbors Together and CCI construction manager; Sarah Derrick, CCI associate director; Becky and Jeff Clark, homeowners; Emily Byrens, volunteer; Jim Olds, Pleasant Hill mayor; and Randy Bishop, USDA Rural Development Area Specialist.

Creative Compassion, Inc. recently held a dedication ceremony at the home of Becky and Jeff Clark to celebrate the completion of one of six construction projects included in the $56,600 USDA Rural Development Housing Preservation and Repair Grant awarded to Creative Compassion, Inc. This truly was an entire community project, with Neighbors Together initiating the idea of building three small homes from 384 square feet to 448 square feet and remodeling three others.

The program began with Sarah Derrick, CCI associate director, welcoming the gathering and introducing Mike Smathers, CCI managing director, who conducted the opening prayer. Trish Parks, Neighbors Together and CCI construction manager, explained that this project began in 2006 and was quite a challenge coordinating the timing of construction and volunteers that worked on these six projects. Emily Byrens, Pleasant Hill volunteer, then explained how the community raised more than $10,000 toward the Clark project and used between 40 and 50 volunteers.

Randy Bishop, area specialist with USDA Rural Development, was next on the program and commented that “skilled, unskilled, old and young volunteers, along with the creative use of recovered materials and energy efficiency measures, have helped instill participants and recipients both with a renewed sense of hope, self-worth and pride in their community.” One home received an additional space, two homes received needed health and safety repairs, and three modest homes were rebuilt from the ground up. The HPG Program serves very-low income households in economically distressed areas. All recipients are at or below 50 percent of the Area Median Income. Applicants must meet the criteria outlined by USDA Rural Development to be eligible for services.

Although unable to attend, Cumberland County Mayor Brock Hill commented through a phone call to CCI Resource Coordinator Frank Massaro that the use of contractors, volunteers and donors truly shows how a community can work together to get important projects completed. Massaro continued by informing the gathering that Alex Ebneth, a Fairfield Glade Community Church member, donated $1,500 toward one of the projects and Dean Neely of Neely Lumber donated his equipment and time in destroying an existing uninhabitable mobile home.

Pleasant Hill Mayor Jim Olds recognized the efforts of Creative Compassion, Inc., Neighbors Together, USDA Rural Development, volunteers and donors as a truly remarkable project enhancing the quality of life for these Pleasant Hill residents.

Mike Smathers, CCI managing director, completed the program by congratulating everyone involved in completing these projects, performed the closing prayer and invited everyone to the Pleasant Hill Community House for lunch.