The Northeast Georgia Latino Chamber of Commerce created a Christmas miracle for Pam Edwards of Gainesville and her family of five.
Through the help of 47 volunteers and donations from 28 local contractors, businesses and churches, the chamber transformed Edwards’ home into a living space.
Community members rebuilt the bathroom, put in new furniture, installed kitchen cabinets, cleared out mold, replaced the flooring, stripped down wallpaper and drastically altered other portions of the house.
Edwards walked into her finished house — the home she grew up in — on Friday, Dec. 20.
Hernandez said after her board interviewed Edwards, they knew immediately that she was the top choice.
Edwards’ house is 1,040 square feet and she takes care of three children and her husband, who has diabetes and receives dialysis. Before her husband was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer, Edwards worked two jobs. She now dedicates her time to look after him and the family lives mostly off of his disability insurance.
Now, Edwards can focus less on her home repairs and more on her family.
Contractors came to the house on Nov. 26 and said the house’s repairs, including labor costs, would cost $47,000.
“I feel blessed,” Edwards said. “I want to say thanks to everybody that came out. A lot of people that were here, to me they seemed like they were in worse situations than me.”
Norma Hernandez, president of the chamber, said the Home for Christmas Project sparked from her own dream of blessing someone during the holidays.
The chamber’s board decided to search for someone who lived in Hall County; had a household income of $35,000 or less; took care of children, veterans or people too sick to work; and owned a home that was 1,300 square feet or less.
“We put it out for the whole community,” Hernandez said. “We didn’t discriminate culture, race or language. We decided charity shouldn’t have a face or color. We just wanted to find the best people.”
Habitat for Humanity, The Light of the World Church, Servpro of Gainesville, Georgia Roof LLC and many others stepped up to the plate to offer free services, materials and labor. Members of the chamber also got their hands dirty, often staying up past midnight to work.
When everyone started the project, the household was a family of six. On Nov. 30, Edwards’ niece, April Roper, passed away. Today, Edwards takes care of her niece’s 16-year-old daughter.
“When April passed, it was a whole ‘nother level of getting this house done on time,” Christine Osasu, Habitat’s digital media coordinator, said. “All of these people helping are working people. They’re carving out time in their days, working during lunch hours, it was amazing.”
Instead of sitting back and letting others fix her home, Edwards decided to play her part in the project.
Yinet Navarro, one of the chamber’s board members, asked Edwards about her contribution.
“She (Edwards) said, ‘Yinet, if I was not here working with you, I’m not going to have the blessing of knowing all of you,’” Navarro recounted.
Putting in hours of labor into a home did forge a bond between Edwards and the volunteers.
While hugging Edwards, Hernandez thanked her and the other volunteers for helping make this dream come true.
“I’ll never fully be able to express my gratitude to you, but please know from the bottom of my heart how much I appreciate and respect each and everyone of you,” Hernandez said while choking up. “Thank you all for your kindness and compassion.”