COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Imagine never feeling safe in your own house in fear that you might fall through the floor or the ceiling might crumble on you.
This was a daily concern for 83-year-old Mary Jenkins. The former housekeeper lives in Columbus, and Mary Jenkins was chosen to be the sixth recipient of the Cottage Project from Columbus Neighborworks.
The organization demolished Jenkins' house on August 8, 2013, and Neighborworks told News Leader Nine Jenkins will get her house back sometime before Thanksgiving this year.
"Oh, she was so happy. She was truly happy," Cynthia Walker Hester, a Chair from Columbus Neighborworks recalled. "Jenkins constantly praised Jesus."
While it was an emotional experience for Mary Jenkins to watch her house fall down, she still had a smile on her face knowing that she would come back again in few months.
Jennifer Dunford, Mary's former landlord told News Leader 9 that she asked Mary if she wanted to move to a different house due to its dangerous condition. However, Mary refused to leave since this house was full of her and her husband's memories.
"My dad was her landlord before I took the responsibility," Dunford said. "When I told her she should move into a better house for her benefit, Mary said my dad and I had made her a promise that she can stay. So I was bounded by the promises, but I didn't want to watch her get hurt in the house. So I contacted Kathy Williams with Neighborworks to fix the house for her… and here we are."
Susan Milligan, one of the program's co-chair helped Mary Jenkins throughout the ceremony. Mary Jenkins used to work for Milligan as her housekeeper for years. Milligan said she did not know how dangerous Jenkins's house was until she came over with Neighborworks to look at the house.
"All the years that Mary worked with me, I had no idea that her home was in such disrepair. No one whom she worked for knew about Mary's home, actually," Milligan recalled. "She never let in, she never asked us to come in. Now that we are helping her, it's such an humbling experience to give back."
Mary Jenkins was grateful for all help.
"I didn't know what was happening to my house. I thought it was going to fall on me. I was afraid, but I didn't want to lose my house," Mary Jenkins explained tearfully. "When Neighborworks came along and told me that they were going to fix my house, I thought it was just wonderful. I want to thank each and every one of them."
Mayor Teresa Tomlinson also served as one of the co-chairs for Columbus Neighborworks Cottage Program. She applauded every member of the organization for their hard work, and explained that she would serve as a co-chair again, if opportunity became available.
"This is her neighborhood. This is where she lived for the last thirty-four years. This is where Mary wants to be," Cynthia Walker Hester said. "This is where her husband brought her. This is it. This is her home. I've been doing Neighborworks since 2008, and Mary deserves this more than anyone."
Mary has survived colon cancer, and she does not have any children. Mary Jenkins currently resides in one of the transition homes Neighborworks provides for elders who wait for their houses to be fixed by Cottage Project.