Homeownership Tips & Tales

Maximum Impact: A look behind the ‘Miracle on 43rd Street’

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As Mrs. Mary Alice Cooper Jenkins walked through the front door of her new forever home Thursday, her eyes welled with tears of joy. “It’s beautiful,” she said.

For this 83-year-old woman who had been living in substandard housing conditions for years, this truly was a “Miracle on 43rd Street,” as Mayor Teresa Tomlinson put it.

It was particularly fitting that Ms. Mary received the keys to her new home just in time for Christmas but not something that was really surprising to anyone who has crossed paths with NeighborWorks Columbus’ sixth Columbus Cottage Program recipient.

“This just doesn’t happen overnight,” said President & CEO Cathy Williams, pointing to a board full of sponsors of Cottage No. 6. “What we found out, Ms. Mary, is that a lot of people wanted to touch your life because you have touched so many lives.”

Ms. Mary has worked as a housekeeper for many families in Columbus. One of those fortunate people was Susan Milligan, who co-chaired the committee for Cottage No. 6, along with the mayor.

“She became affectionately known as ‘My Mary’ to my whole family. She helped me become a wife, a mother by her example and helped me graciously end that marriage and enter into another one,” Susan said.

And now, Ms. Mary, who has helped create homes for so many in the community, truly has a home to call her own.

“I’m so proud for my sister. She deserves this,” said Eugene Knighton, Ms. Mary’s older sister.

 David Fox, Executive Vice President of Real Estate Production for NeighborWorks, shed some light on some of what went on behind the scenes to make this miracle happen.

“As much as (the cottages) are all the same, they are all different,” David said. “On this one, we had a plan and were ready to go.”

But, the program they were going to use to build this cottage fell through for various reasons.

David said three people, in particular, made a key difference in keeping this cottage together.

First, Cathy Williams had actually drawn the plans for the home on her computer. “That was helpful because we still had a plan (when the other manufacturer fell through), so she deserves a lot of praise,” he said.

James Johnson, owner/contractor for Triple J, also played an instrumental role in getting the team of subcontractors together quickly.

And, David said one person who truly held the project together was Wanda Jenkins, marketing and communications for NeighborWorks Columbus. “Wanda held the whole thing together with all the trials and tribulations we had with this one,” he said.

 About the Columbus Cottage Program

The Columbus Cottage Program is a public/private partnership made possible with philanthropic support from local foundations, organizations and community support. Started in 2008, NeighborWorks® Columbus, Columbus Consolidated Government and local community leaders, sought to eliminate substandard housing for impoverished elderly citizens. Since then, several cottages have been built for well deserving seniors.

About NeighborWorks Columbus

NeighborWorks® Columbus, a community-based 501c (3) nonprofit organization, mission is to provide access to fit and affordable housing for all citizens of low to moderate income. NeighborWorks® Columbus’ vision and deep commitment remains to improve the quality of life through the elimination of substandard housing and the revitalization of target neighborhoods and create opportunities for qualified homeowners in Columbus. For more information about NeighborWorks® Columbus and its services, visit nwcolumbus.org or call 706-324-HOME (4663).

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