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Community builds family a new home

WINCHESTER — For years, Shirley Jones' home on Melbourne Street drew generations of family together.

Her late husband worked on the house during weekends. Her 3-year-old great-granddaughter played with a rabbit in the yard. Even her son, Kenneth, kept a room there.

But by late April, the house reeked of mildew. A prolonged spring rainstorm had swamped the residence in six inches of muddy water, ruining most of the furniture and leaving the house unlivable.

Now, the Jones' home is bringing another group together — the community.

In the wake of the flood, dozens of volunteers from area churches have spent the last few months raising money and pouring sweat into a new home for Jones and her family.

They tore the old house down on faith, without any money to rebuild, and volunteers say that progress so far has been nothing short of a work of God.

”I think it has gone tremendously and I praise God for it,“ said Lee Cruse, pastor of Grace Bible Church and one of the many organizers on the project. ”I think it is because the hand of the Lord is in it.“

The 80-year-old house flooded in the early morning hours of April 4, when several days of steady rain caused a deluge from a back alley to wash down Jones' yard and into the rear of the structure.

Jones' family members awoke to discover the water around 1:30 a.m. and despite efforts to bail it out, three bedrooms, the living room and a laundry room were inundated within half an hour.

”We've been out ever since,“ said Jones. ”It just ruined everything in the house.“

Without flood insurance, Jones, 60, wasn't sure where to go. She took up residence with family members and told her pastor, Janice Claypoole from the Ark of Mercy Church of God, about the problem.

”She found out what happened and she mentioned it to some people, other churches and things,“ Jones said. ”To my surprise one day, they came over and told me they were going to tear it down and build a new one.“

Volunteers bulldozed the house several weeks ago and had completed all the foundation work and framing by late July.

”When we started this house we didn't have a dime,“ said Walter Hunt, a member of Grace Bible Church. ”We knew people were going to help.“

Since then, local churches have raised money, businesses have donated materials and labor and volunteers have spent their free time hammering nails and cutting lumber.

Once finished, the house will have a living room, a kitchen, three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a long front porch.

Mike Rogers, a volunteer from Calvary Christian Church, said the groups want to conclude the project without any cost to Jones, but he's not sure when the house will be ready.

Volunteers said they have been inspired to help Jones through biblical teachings and a spirit of community involvement. Others said Jones' own generosity has prompted participation.

”Words really don't describe it because I've met a lot of new friends and it has just been wonderful,“ Jones said. ”I really didn't even imagine any of this, but they have all just come together and tried to help me.“