Church comes to homeowners' rescue
When a tree root grew into the sewage pipe below Sanford resident Marlene Malone's house at 645 Gulf St., she and her family were at a loss.
Sewage was pouring into the basement, and she said the rupture was so bad that some of the people she called to take a look wouldn't even go near it.
"I was just sort of at my wit's end with what to do," Malone said. "I don't really know that many people here. No one would help us. We had no money to pay anyone to help us."
Malone finally found a solution in the First Baptist Church of Sanford. Members of the church had helped Malone and her family clear some brush when they moved into their home after her husband Phillip's parents died, the same home Phillip grew up in. Malone said her husband suffered a massive stroke 12 years ago and that the house had great sentimental value to him.
Malone's son, Jim Miller, also lives with her and her husband. A Desert Storm veteran, Jim suffered severe back injuries after an automobile wreck a few years ago and is waiting on his disability claim to go through.
Cindy Hall, minister of outreach and activities at First Baptist, said that she and the church's senior minister, the Rev. Jeff Clark, discussed the Malones' situation and, though it would be difficult, agreed they needed to do what they could.
"We had helped her a couple years ago when they were overwhelmed by shrubbery and weeds and brush," Hall said. "We sent a crew over one Saturday to kind of clean it up for her."
Malone said she sent the church a letter detailing her family's situation, and Hall and other members were eager to help.
"Bart Willis, a member of the church, works for a restoration company," Hall said. "We asked him if he would mind going over and looking. He had his hazard suit and everything. He said it was really bad and that if we didn't help them, their house would be condemned."
The members of First Baptist went about rallying volunteers, collecting donations and helping the Malones file an insurance claim. The Malones headed to the America's Best Value Inn on Horner Boulevard Monday and volunteers began repair and restoration work.
"It's a project a whole bunch of people got involved in." Hall said. "And each of us is doing just a little bit to get them back on their feet. Because people are doing small things here and there, it's getting done. It should be finished by the end of the week as far as I know."
Malone expressed her thanks to First Baptist, Neil Coggins of Fit-It Plumbing Services and the rest of the volunteers who offered their time and energy to get the family back into their home. She also said Containment Control Inc., which aided the clean-up effort, waived the insurance deductible for the work.
More than anything else, Malone is looking forward to returning to her house, the first one she has ever owned.
"I've put a lot of time and money into it to get it livable and as nice as possible," Malone said. "There's a ways to go, but we put a lot into it. It's our home. ... I am extremely grateful [to First Baptist]. They are truly a godsend."