Monday, October 15, 2007

Four Haltom City families getting home makeovers from church

Four Haltom City families getting home makeovers from church
By TERRY WEBSTER
Star-Telegram staff writer

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Four Haltom City families getting home makeovers from church


HALTOM CITY -- Four families are just a few hours away from living in their dream homes.
They were whisked away Friday afternoon to a hotel in Grapevine, where they will stay overnight while hundreds of volunteers from NorthWood Church in Keller renovate their homes.
All the families have children attending the Academy at West Birdville elementary school in the Birdville school district. For three years, NorthWood has teamed with the school, where about 90 percent of the students are economically disadvantaged.
The four families spent some time swimming and shopping Friday evening, and today they're headed to Six Flags Over Texas.
This evening, they will return to homes that have been newly repainted, carpeted and decked out with new appliances and furniture -- and maybe even plasma TVs. Children's bedrooms will be redone in themes such as Tinker Bell and Spiderman, and the kids will receive bicycles and swing sets.
"It's overwhelming," said Ronald Sims, a father of one of the families. "It's a lot of stuff we wanted to do, but have not been able to."
Sims and his wife, Tracie, and their three children are living in a home they bought from Ronald Sims' aunt and uncle.
"They rented it and some of the people didn't care," Sims said.
The house had been condemned at one point because many inside walls were removed, he said. They've been replaced, he said.
The four home makeovers are one of the many projects NorthWood Church has done at the Academy at West Birdville since 2004. The church provides tutoring and school supplies, and helped establish the Kids Cafe, which provides evening meals for about 85 children.
Improving students' living conditions can also help them in school, Principal Lindi Andrews said.
When kids have a place to live that is comfortable, they are more likely to arrive at school feeling rested and are more prepared to learn, Andrews said.
A team of several hundred NorthWood Church members -- some of them professional contractors and home builders -- began remodeling the homes Friday and planned to work continuously to finish the job for the families' return tonight.
The church focuses its outreach in Haltom City; Hanoi, Vietnam; and Puebla, Mexico, said Chris Shabay, community development director for NorthWood.
"We believe you build relationships if you stay put," Shabay said.
Teachers chose the families based on the children's potential to excel in school and their families' needs. The recommendations were given to NorthWood, which sent church members to meet the families and learn their stories.
All the families own their homes and are U.S. citizens, Shabay said.
Irma Jasso, a daytime housekeeper at the Academy, said through a Spanish translator that she could not believe that her family was chosen. She and her husband, Manuel, have a son, Daniel, who is in kindergarten at the Academy. Irma Jasso has recently returned to work at the school after undergoing treatments for breast cancer.
Juanita Maria Lopez has been caring for two grandchildren, Bryan Rodriguez, a first-grader at the Academy, and Diego Avila, who is in pre-kindergarten.
Lopez said the home makeover will help her to provide more for the children.
Fernanda Ayala said she thought her children -- Omar, a fifth-grader, and Ramiro, a third-grader -- were in trouble when teachers kept trying to contact her to set up the makeover.
Workers from NorthWood have already replaced the family's water heater, which had broken. The family had been taking cold showers and had used a space heater and the oven to heat the home last winter because they could not afford to fix the furnace.
"I hope the community knows the school is not just a place to learn," said Olga Hernandez-Coar, a reading specialist at the Academy. "We care about the families. All of them."
Out of the house
The four families were entertained elsewhere while their homes were being made over. They stayed Friday night at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Grapevine.
Today:
9:15 a.m. -- Leave hotel and go to Six Flags Over Texas
10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. -- Six Flags. Money for food and games will be provided by the church.
5:45 p.m.-- Depart in limousines for their homes
6:30 p.m.-- Families return home for unveiling and celebration
7:15 p.m. -- Dinner catered in each home
7:30 p.m. -- Workers clean up.
Source: NorthWood Church

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