Week 24, 25 & Open House

Well, here we are at the end of our journey.  The Open House was Friday night, March 30th and Melissa, Callie and Wyatt have moved in their new home.  Some asked that night if I ever thought that I would see that day?  I told them that I never doubted it.  It was ordained and blessed, and there was never any doubt that it would come to fruition.  What a precious homeplace for Melissa to raise her children.   They actually spent the night Friday night after the Open house.  Callie asked her Mom afterward if they got to stay there forever?  Yes Callie, it is yours, Wyatts and your Moms forever. 

Before talking about the Open House, I need to go back to the two previous work- weeks that we had on the Farm to finish up.  We were blessed once again with some amazingly talented and giving people to help us with the last punch. 

First of all let me introduce you to a very special couple Pam and Mitch Huff.  I built their home about 25 years ago, and they have been precious friends ever since.  It was not “call me if you need me” for they arrived one day in work clothes and with gloves on and told me to use them however I could.  I put them right to work cleaning up the outer areas around the grounds, seeding and strawing the grass areas, picking up hamburgers and anything else that I could find to be done for the Open House and final call!  For you see Alzheimers has claimed our friend, husband and father Mitch.  He is retired from Dudley nurseries and loves to be outside and remembers how to work with plants and the grounds but is having difficulty with other things right now.  This was a special time for us to witness and a wonderful blessing of time, energy and skills that they used.  I will always be grateful for the precious memories of seeing them both working away together out in the yards and for all they did for the Christian family and for me those last couple of weeks. 

College Pro Landscaping, Jaime Allgood and his crew were absolutely amazing and did so much for us that it will be hard to catch it all, but I will try.  Jaime procured the sod from North GA Turf, the irrigation system from Rainbird, and the pavers and the stack wall materials from Pavestone Atlanta for the landscape design.  He and his crew then went right to work installing these materials.  I was notorious for asking, “since you have this machine here…would you mind digging the tree holes?” or a thousand other things that needed to be done!  Bless them!  They never said “no”.  We pulled several 9 P.M. nights that last week. Did I mention that Spring is one of the busiest times for those in landscape?  One night we had two landscape crews out laying pavers by car lights!  Jaime hopped right in and laid the stones with them.  At the last minute we found out that we needed a separate water line run from the well up to the house for the irrigation system, and College Pro supplied the materials, labor and machines for this the very next morning.  You guys are the best, and we thank you!

We had a few other things to finish up outside.  Mark Rice of Artistic Ornamental provided the wrought iron handrail for the upstairs banister.  We had to get Mark off the Master’s Golf course in Augusta where he was finishing up ironwork for the “Green Jacket Day”, but he made it work with his schedule and the handrail turned out so beautiful!  I called Jim Davis of Davis Tree Service and Robert Warren of Warren’s Stump Grinding at the last minute and asked them to help with another front yard clean up.  Both dropped what they were doing and arrived on the scene.  You guys were super.  I appreciate you and your hearts to help so much!  We also needed a little more mowing and trimming on the perimeter areas.  For this G & G Construction, Josh Garrett and Nathan McNeil finished up.  We also needed an underground line for the water feature installed in Buddy’s garden out front.  Once again and for the LAST time, Jackson EMC’s Jason Bond stepped up to help.  Jason, you are truly going to be missed on my next job here in town!  I appreciate every minute that you gave in helping create this beautiful home.  Thank you all!

Charmene and Cedric Brougthon from C & C Janitorial sent their crew out to “clean house”…and clean they did!   Folks, after dirt for landscaping has been turned up that many times and pavers have been saw cut by two crews…there can be some dust!  Just ask my son Jake…he washed my car as a surprise for me afterward!  Thank you Dude!  C & C cleaned the windows and scrubbed down the inside of the house of course, and it was shining and beautiful just in time for the Open House.  They also introduced me to Steve Hardwick of Hardwick Window Cleaning and Pressure Washing.  He cleaned the driveway, deck and porches for us.  Stephanie Doer of Make Mine Home once again came out to help with interior placements and also bearing gifts of tables and lamps!  What beautiful additions to the home these were!  Robbie Hall also designed, made and installed the incredible oak cabinet in Buddy’s study to house his uniform, holster and awards. Robbie, this was an extraordinary piece and truly made the room “Buddy’s study”.   Thank you to all for sharing your gifts. 

I have one last person to thank.  He was the first one to start this journey with me out on the Christian Farm, and I will always remember looking for the stakes that Buddy had put in the ground to place his new home before that tragic day struck this family.  Ron Deal of Garden South, you have been a blessing and a true friend.  I appreciate all of your time, energy, expertise and talent that you have shared with us on the house layout and landscape plan and design.  Your crews were wonderful as they installed the plants and trees and the pavers for the back deck.  But, the most beautiful was Buddy’s Memory Garden out front highlighting the one stake that we did find that very first day.  The pavers, surrounded by the stacked wall and beautiful water feature is a fitting tribute to our fallen hero.  I also appreciate you and Nally rounding up so many of the products that led us to such an incredible finish.  We send MANY thanks to the following:

Oconee Outdoor Specialties, Brandon Tolbert for the drip irrigation.
Southeastern Growers, Gene Higginbotham for the trees
All About Pine Straw, Tyler McClure for the pine straw
Transplant Nursery, Jeff Beasley for landscape plants
Classic Groundcovers, Wally Pressley for the landscape groundcover
Eastside Ornamentals, Rusty Allen for the trees
Aubrey’s Arbor, Chris Aubrey for the landscape plants
Athens Seed Wholesale, Jimmy Willis for the grass seed and fertilizer
Thomas Orchards, Jerry and Paula Thomas for the decorative pots and plants
Cofer’s Home and Garden Showplace, Stuart Cofer for the outdoor patio furniture
Charlotte Johnson Homes, Charlotte Johnson -contribution toward the landscape
Hanson Aggragates, Jeff Redmon for the gravel and sand for pavers and farm access drive
Harris Trucking, Teri Harris Joiner for the hauling of the gravel and sand
Specialty Stone, Mike Philips for the pea gravel for the farm access driveway
County Line Enterprise, Calvin Fleming for final grade and clean up
DePalmas Eastside for the “feeding of the landscape troops”

Thank you all.  I have often said that you can take a “shack” and with the right landscape, people would LOVE it!  Hopefully, this is not entirely true or we as builders would be out of business, but I think you get my point!

Now on to the Open House….

We had a grand day on March 30th with about 250 adults and 50 children arriving to help us “Welcome the Christian Family Home”.   Missy Tolbert, a family friend of Melissa and Buddy was invaluable to me with the organization of the Open House.  She tirelessly rounded up donations, set the schedule, typed up donation lists, enlisted volunteers and Pastor Randy Crowe of Hull Baptist Church and everything in between!  Missy is an “Event Planner” for the Institute of Continuing Judicial Education of GA, and she was certainly “using her gifts”!  Thank goodness!  Missy, thank you for everything that you did to make that night enjoyable and a special memory for us all.  

I enlisted 8 ladies to stand with me as Hostesses for the Open House.  These ladies were instrumental throughout the construction process, and it was special to share this evening with them.  I want to thank Lisa Teall and Jean Channell of the Athens Area Homebuilder’s Association, Stephanie Doer of Make Mine Home, Marilyn Wilkes of Athens Refrigeration, Deanna Moon of Rowe Insulating, Teri Harris Joiner of Harris Trucking, and two very good friends, Barbara McConnell and again Pam Huff for guiding our tours through the home that night.  Thank you to all of our guests for being good sports as Lisa insisted that their shoes must come off before entering! 

We had so many that contributed to this wonderful evening.  Let me try to list them for you.

Marble Works of Lake Oconee for the financial contribution
PDI, Plumbing Distributors, Inc of Lawrenceville, GA for the financial contribution
McDonald’s North Hwy 29 and Prince Avenue for the food, paper products and condiments
Shell of Hull, GA  for the chips
Athens Coca-Cola Distributors for the Coca Cola products
Anthony Seabolt and Gary Derryberry for the bread products
Athens Clarke Firefighters Mike Moon and Michael Tolbert for being our chefs
Quality Block’s Craig Cleveland for also being a chef for the evening
Hull Volunteer Fire Dept. for the coolers, ice and charcoal
Athens First United Methodist Women’s Circle 3 and Barbara McConnell for dessert contributions
Winterville United Methodist Women’s Evening Fellowship Circle and Betty Bell, my Mom, for dessert contributions
Jim Marucci for the traffic pads for the flooring
Joyce Phillips for the downstairs floral arrangements, desserts, & coolers
Paulette Watkins, Melissa’s Mom, for the upstairs floral arrangement
Sybil Coody, my sister, for the fern in the downstairs den area
Janie West for the pillow of the first blessing of the home
Simmie Bell, my Dad, for the blue bird house and stand
Athens Janitorial Supply for the front and back door mats
Carol Lively for the scrapbooks of the construction period for Melissa & myself
Mark Sorrow for the professional photography of the home and Open House
UGA’S news team with Christi Ethridge for coming out and covering the Open House.  You can see their news story at:

It was just a grand evening with the grilles going, the children running around, lines of visitors touring through the house, and folks sitting in lawn chairs and on truck tailgates enjoying the view and each other as they patiently waited for the “Move that bus” moment!   It was so special to look out and see friends and family and those who had participated in their individual ways arrive to see the finished home.  Whatever part whether large or small…arranging concerts and 5Ks for additional monies needed to the feeding of the troops….it had all counted!  Their faces of joy, peace and excitement were worth a million as they walked around to gaze at what had transpired since their last visit of the site.  These men and women I can never repay, but that is truly not why they gave of their time and talents.

“Unless the Lord builds the home, the builders labor in vain”.  I will tell you that the Lord did build this home, and we as builders did NOT labor in vain.  It is a grand culmination of talents and gifts from this community.  I have officially retired my armbands now except for when I am speaking on behalf of the Christian home and sharing this incredible story, but the saying on them held true the entire time.  “Community built with love”.  Yes it was!  Growing up, I (with the emphasis on I) had wanted my “God given gift” to be singing as my son, Jake and new daughter-in-law Missy share.  I wanted to tour and just sing for a living...but, that is NOT what God had in mind.  As a wise older woman told me…”Don’t you think that God could use you as a builder and organizer”?  At that time I thought that if God was using you, you were shipped off over seas as a missionary!  As we have said before…some missions are alot closer.

As I write this final blog post, I thank you for taking this journey with me.  The last thing that Melissa’s grandmother told me that Friday night was “you can’t leave us…you are family now”.  I told her that yes I was and I expected to be invited to ALL birthday parties and special events.  I will hold them to that!  I do want to thank Michael Tolbert and Alan Lapzinsky for trusting me with their best friend at a time when she was the most vulnerable.   I am so proud of Melissa and how much she has grown this last year.  The very first time that I asked her to speak, she declined and said that one day she was going to “get Buddy for leaving her in this situation of constantly speaking.”  A year later, she now speaks with authority and always with grace, and love.  I look forward to hearing how God uses her to minister to other families of fallen heroes through her next steps with the Buddy Christian Foundation. 

At this writing we have had almost 16,000 hits to this blog site.  I pray that this story continues to live and inspire others to be still and listen to what He is telling you and to take our “Sunday clothes off and arrive in work clothes with gloves”!  I thank each and every one of you who showed up with your work gloves and for your many many prayers.  I know He would say…”These are my children, with them  I am well pleased.”  Amen and Amen.

Good-bye for now. 
Know that I will always be….and I hope that YOU will also…

Forever Ruined For the Ordinary,

Beautiful kitchen ready for the Open House

The finished Christian Home

Buddy's Garden out front around the original stake

The rear view of the home

Open House and the crowd starts to gather

Wyatt playing outside as everyone gets ready

Banner to welcome the Christian Family home

Melissa, Pastor Randy, Chief Lumpkin and myself

Chief Lumpkin addressing and thanking the crowd

Presenting Melissa with the pillow that Janie West made as an Open House gift with the first of the many house blessings stitching.

Callie, Wyatt and Melissa cutting their ribbons

Melissa and myself..each blessed beyond measure

Cedric Broughton and Kareem Staley of C & C Janitorial cleaning windows

North GA Turf and Sod delivering

College Pro Landscaping installing the sod

Mark Rice and his crew at Artistic Ornamental installing the upstairs handrail

Artistic Ornamental touching up the handrail

Jaime Allgood and his crew at College Pro Landscaping stop long enough for a picture

Garden South arriving on the scene

Trees and larger plants being delivered

Ron Deal of Garden South designing with his famous paint can

College Pro Landscaping helping to dig holes for the trees to be planted

Pam and Mitch Huff putting out seed and straw for the grass areas

Robert Warren of Warren's Sump Grinding helping out

Mr L.C. of the Madison Co. Inspection Office presenting us with our Certificate of Occupancy

C & C Janitorial giving the kitchen a super clean up

More of the C & C Cleaning crew doing an amazing job with the house clean up

Stuart Cofer of Cofer's Home and Garden Showplace delivering the new patio furniture

Rick Garrett of Garrett Paving checking out the new asphalt driveway

Pavestone Atlanta delivering the pavers and the wall stones

Laying pavers by car lights to finish up

Ken Gordon and Jason Bond of Jackson EMC once again coming to our rescue to install the underground wire for the water feature of Buddy's Garden

Ron and Nan Deal, Pam and Mitch Huff, and Doug Griffin taking a break

College Pro Landscaping installing the front sidewalk pavers

Garden South Landscape and Design installing the plants and Buddy's Garden pavers

Washing up for dinner

DePalmas Eastside providing dinner for the landscape crews

Specialty Stone supplying the pea gravel for the farm access road

Nathan McNeil and Josh Garrett of G & G Construction help out with the last minute mowing

Steve Hardwick of Hardwick Window Cleaning and Pressure Washing cleaning the driveway

Melissa and Robbie Hall with Buddy's cabinet in the study

David Griffeth and Missy Tolbert helping with the move in

Stephanie Doer of Make Mine Home adding finishing touches

Great room fireplace area

Breakfast room with new window seat cushions made by Melissa's Grandmother, Ruth Watkins

Dining room ready for Open House

Front entry and staircase

Buddy's study with more of his memories

Buddy's Memorial cabinet along with the Colt Ford guitar and hat.  .

Buddy's Study bath

Wyatt's new bunk beds and nature scene

Callie's new princess room with bed

Callie's princess bathroom

Beautiful new master bedroom

Melissa hanging her new towels from her Grandmother

Master vanity ready for the Open House with flowers from Paulette Watkins, Melissa's Mom

Buddy's Garden with water feature and stone around the original stake

Melissa looking across the front fields from her new home


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