House renovation gets 'extreme'
By SARAH LUNDGREN The Brunswick News
A century-old and recognizable house in Brunswick is getting a face-lift and a new purpose.
Built in 1891, the vacant Gray Gables house on Gloucester Street, next to the downtown Brunswick fire station, is being renovated to become the new site of Grace House for women.
Linda Lowe, director of the rehabilitation facility for women with drug or alcohol problems, looked on Thursday as more than 70 volunteers worked on the transformation of the building.
"It's unbelievable and, honestly, a little overwhelming. It's like 'Extreme Makeover Home Edition, Brunswick Style,'" she said. "I walked up here and said, 'Oh, gosh, look at all these people.'"
The word "extreme" was no exaggeration. Crews were tearing apart the front staircase and demolishing interior walls, while others sanded, primed and painted walls, fixed broken shutters and cleaned inside and outside. Others were raking and tilling the front yard, moving sod and refurbishing plantings.
Thursday's efforts were made possible through a simple phone call from Chad Robins, founding partner of Mount2Sea Ministries, a program that links volunteers with projects that need help.
"(He) does more work in this community than anyone else, and he does it very quietly," said Tommy Townsend, chair of the board of Grace House. "He called me and told me he had this group of (70) men at Epworth (by the Sea on St. Simon Island) who were looking for a community project. Four days later, it all came together.
"This just doesn't happen. It's been the most incredible thing to watch unfold. It gives me chills. We have all these guys here today working because they want to do something good for someone else. That's what it's all about."
Initially, Grace didn't think purchasing the Grey Gables house, for years occupied by Edo Miller and Sons Funeral Home and later an antiques shop, would be possible. Lowe made an offer with SunTrust Bank for what the agency could afford and was approved.
"We went on an immediate fundraising effort and have already raised half of what it will cost," Townsend said. "The beauty of it is that we're doing something special for this block and this community."
Need is the catalyst for desiring a new home.
"We needed a bigger space," Townsend said of the program that has operated at 809 Monck St., Brunswick. "We have to turn needy women away every week. There's a horrible drug and alcohol problem in this community."
The goal is to house at least four to six more women than the 11 now who can be accommodated at what is known as the Jane Macon house, with the possibility for more later.
Women typically stay for nine months, and with the help of Grace House, get sober, get a job and start a whole new life.
"Most come here with absolutely nothing," Lowe said. "We've got computers to help make them write a resume, we get clothing vouchers from Goodwill and Hello Goodbuy so they can dress nicely. We help take them around to look for a job, and everyone gets a job.
"I've had 100 percent success rate within 30 days. Once they do that, they start getting a paycheck and start contributing back to the house."
* Reporter Sarah Lundgren writes about education and other local topics. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 322.