CENTREVILLE, Ill. — The modest 1968 vintage mobile home of Leah and Marvin Williams was known in their neighborhood as a place people who needed a bite to eat or a place to rest their head could go for a little bit of help.
But the roof was falling in, the floor was falling through and it just got to the point where it couldn't be fixed anymore. So four churches banded together to raise money to buy materials and a volunteer crew built them a 2,500-square-foot, five-bedroom house. The home was dedicated Sunday with a few prayers and a lot of tears.
"They have always given so much, but they had so little," friend LaDonna Feldhake said. "Literally, someone was taking a bath at their old house and the tub fell through the floor. It had been patched up and patched up until there was nothing left to put the patches on."
Leah Williams said she and her husband have two children of their own. But it isn't unusual for the number of people who eat at her table to reach 15 people or more.
"If anyone needs something to eat or a place to rest their head they know they can come to here," Leah Williams said. "This house is such a blessing to us. And it will help us share our blessings with others."
Contractor Jeff Watson came to the mobile home a little more than a year ago to help with repairs. He quickly realized the family's home was beyond help. So he contacted church members to see what could be done. Members of the Winstanley Baptist Church in Fairview Heights — where the Williams family attends services -- Hope Church of Waterloo, Momentum Church of Columbia and Christ Community Lutheran in Columbia decided if they could raise $70,000, they could get a home built with volunteer labor. When they called to tell the Williams family they would be getting a new house, Leah Williams couldn't believe it.
"I told the person who called me that I didn't have time for these kinds of games and I hung up on them," Leah Williams said. "I'm glad they called back."
The house, complete with a large front deck and a spacious living room, was built on a plot of land on Whalen Avenue that Leah Williams' parents bought when they got married.
Art Reames, of Collinsville, one of the volunteer builders, said the crew was made up largely of retirees. They worked four days a week for about six hours at a time.
"It was really a rewarding project because this family deserved it so much," Reames said. "There was a little sweat, a few tears and plenty of blood. But God brought us together and we did it."
The volunteers named the construction effort Project Build a Home they hope to keep the momentum going after the Centreville project with a home in Dupo next on the agenda.
Information from: Belleville News-Democrat, http://www.bnd.com