Bethel presents funding for family home in Gretna
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
Delores Akins, her husband and six grandchildren stood in front the congregation at Bethel Missionary Baptist Church on Sunday for a ceremony that marked the final step to construction of their new home in Gretna.
It was what Akins’ family had been waiting for a year before Hurricane Michael ravaged through their small town just west of Tallahassee. Bethel’s pastor, Rev. R.B. Holmes and church officers presented a $65,000 check to Big Bend Habitat for Humanity to finance the home.
“Joy,” said Akins, expressing her appreciation for the effort led by the church. “I just got great joy, knowing God’s favor was on me through his people.
“I’m just overwhelmed with the joy I got here today.”
Construction is scheduled to begin in March and the Akins’ are expecting to move into a five-bedroom, two-bath home in April. All eight family members are current in a three-bedroom house with one bathroom.
The house didn’t sustain much more than some roof damage from the hurricane. However, the family didn’t have electricity for 10 days after the storm and was forced to stay with one of their children in Tallahassee before moving back to Gretna to find the town of 1,400 people destroyed.
“I went into a depression,” Delores Akins said. “I felt sad because of all the things I was seeing; the trees and the (electrical) wiring. It was depressing to me. I cried.”
The family applied for Habitat assistance in September 2017, Delores Akins said. Meanwhile, they applied for financing and waited to get the call.
Hurricane Michael fast-forwarded the process, said Antoine Wright, executive director of Habitat for Humanity. The ball got rolling soon after Holmes and members of the Bethel congregation went to feed residents of Gretna following the storm.
“It was a match made in heaven,” said Wright. “It worked out well.”
Choosing the Akins family wasn’t difficult because they were already in the pipeline and had gone through the vetting process, Wright said.
“It’s really special because it’s coming out of an urgent need,” he said. “Gadsden County is one of the poorest counties in the state and there has always been housing needs. But to come out of something that has been created by the storm; something chaotic, is really amazing.”
In December, Holmes asked his members to contribute to a fund-raising campaign for the $65,000.
“It was an easy thing to do,” said Holmes, who led a similar initiative in 1997 to build a home in Frenchtown. “Hurricane Michael was a hurricane of historical proportion. Instead of saying we are praying for you, we wanted to do something significant and meaningful.”
Holmes said the church has adopted Gretna and will continue to help until the town is restored.
Gretna Mayor Anthony Baker said the community is far from complete restoration. Getting to that point will take more partnership like the one that Bethel formed with his town, Baker said.
“In these day and time, it’s hard for communities to come together and for a church that is not from our community to step in to build a house for a deserving family, we thank them and thank God,” Baker said. “We look forward to many more partnerships.”