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Habitat to rebuild burned home for soldier and family

POSTED: August 6, 2010 11:26 p.m.
TOM REED/The Times

Danny Sanderson, left, with Habitat for Humanity, talks with Michael and Kim Walker and their children, Joshua Pressley, back left, Haley Grooms, center, and Taylor Grooms, right. It was announced Friday that Habitat for Humanity would build a house for the Walkers on the site of their house that burned last spring on the day Michael Walker returned from Afghanistan.

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An announcement Friday morning signaled a new beginning for Army Spc. Michael Walker, who came home from a deployment in Afghanistan only to find his family's East Hall home burned to the ground.

Walker, his wife, Kim, and four children will live in a new house built by Habitat for Humanity of Hall County. The project should start in about two months.

"It's a big weight off my shoulders, not having to wonder about what to do next, what's going to happen," Walker said. "It gives you something to look forward to. We didn't know what was going to happen."

Walker had spent 10 months in Afghanistan and was "dumbfounded" when he learned he would have to deal with the stress of a destroyed home.

After a period of uncertainty, the Walkers moved into a temporary house on the property of Blackshear Place Baptist Church in Oakwood.

Joe Collier, facilities director at the church, helped get the Walkers settled in their temporary home. Now he's thankful to see the Walkers get started on a new chapter in their lives.

"It's always gratifying to see prayers answered, and to know that we were able to help them through this tough time," Collier said. "It's just a gratifying feeling."

The house will be energy efficient and affordable, said Hall County habitat CFO Danny Sanderson. Habitat sells the house to the family at no profit, and the house is financed through a no-interest loan.

"It's a hand up, not a handout," Sanderson said.

The Walkers will also get in on the build, contributing 300 volunteer hours to the habitat program.

"It kind of gives you a sense of accomplishment," Walker said. "It keeps you from feeling so needy."

For Kim Walker, the new house means a return to normalcy, a feeling she said she should have gotten the second her husband returned to family.

"You don't like to clean or anything, but I'm actually ready to clean my own house," she said. "Clean my own house, and decorate and just have a home for my children and family. We came back to chaos when it was supposed to be mellow."

One of the Walker's children, 11-year-old Taylor Grooms, said he was excited to get moving on the new house.

"I'm ready to have a house so we can start over again," he said.

The Walkers were selected for the project based on Habitat's three criteria points: level of need, willingness to become partners in the habitat program and ability to repay the no-interest loan.

But Dee Ann Whitenton, president of the board for Hall County habitat, said the Walkers went above and beyond the basic criteria.

She said though the Walker's story is "heartbreaking," the family would have been chosen regardless.

"They're just the perfect fit for Habitat - very kind, humble, enjoyable," she said. "I think it's going to be a good experience."

 



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