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December 11, 2010

Church volunteers unite for extreme home makeover

NEW CASTLE — Despite personal tragedies and financial hardships, Norm and Kathy Link continued to give.

Always willing to help others, the Links placed church and community above their own needs.

The couple remained consummate volunteers as they quietly faced serious health issues, layoffs and the sudden death of Kathy’s oldest son. Five years ago, they were forced to move from their house into a mobile home that was beyond disrepair.

Yet, no one really knew how dire the situation was — not even those close to them.

The floor is so weak in spots that they must avoid stepping near them for fear of falling through. A non-working furnace forces them to heat their home with space heaters. The dilapidated front door wouldn’t close or latch properly.

As they lived in an unsafe and unhealthy environment, the Links never asked for help.

However, a group of friends from New Creation Free Methodist Church on Arlington Avenue heard about the Links’ situation and decided something had to be done.

Thinking like the popular ABC television series, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” the group planned to repair the old home. That wasn’t exactly cost-effective, noted Pastor Chuck Jewell.

So the group — with the endorsement and support of the congregation — decided, why not give them a new home?

Project “X-treme Housing Blessing” began.

“We found a half-acre property with an older doublewide-style mobile home already on it,” Jewell explained. “The property owner agreed to drop the price to just $5,000 and an anonymous donor stepped forward to provide that money to the project.”

The work soon began in earnest.

Retired contractor Paul Frazier oversees the physical labor at the site, with assistance by Josh Kinneary. The team jokingly refers Kinneary as Robin to Frazier’s Batman.

“We have installed all new floors, sub floors and base, new windows, a new kitchen, a new bathroom, new plumbing, new skirting, new landscaping, repainted everything,” Frazier said.

Nancy Arnold, who spearheaded and unified the entire project, added, “Basically, we have redone everything.”

She said all the construction has been done by volunteers, and that the team as well as many others have spent every Saturday for months on the site working.

“Three other churches have also given support to the project, as well as many individuals and local businesses, but we still have a lot of money yet to raise,” Jewell said.

To help offset the costs, a benefit concert, organized by Dennis Kauffman, is planned for 6 p.m. Sunday at the Ben Franklin Early Learning Center auditorium. Kauffman said he hopes the concert will generate much-needed funds to complete the home makeover project.

“Our goal is that when the Links move in, there will be no outstanding debt or unpaid bills remaining on this project,” Kauffman said.

That means the group will need to raise about $15,500, plus the cost of furniture.

Volunteer Mandy Knauff noted, “Seeing our community and our church reach out has been a great experience. It has allowed me to reach out as well.”

The team agreed that the work will be worth it when they get to see the look on Norm and Kathy Link’s faces as they enter their new home for the first time.

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