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Wednesday, April 25, 2007 10:03 pm

It’s on the house

Community rallies to rebuild grandmother’s home

Pictures of volunteers, and other information about the Milford house, are available at www.dorothy-milford-project.com.
Untitled Document Volunteers are pouring heart and sole into rehabilitating the home of Dorothy Milford, the 70-year-old grandmother profiled by Illinois Times two weeks ago [see “The way back home,” April 5]. Milford, who is legal guardian to six grandchildren ranging in age from 5 to 14 years, had been forced to move her family out of the South 16th Street home she owns more than a year ago, when her two youngest grandchildren were found to have high levels of lead in their blood. On the first day of the rehab project, more than two dozen volunteers showed up to work, and one man was wearing a pair of boots that gave him a special connection to Milford. The volunteer’s boots had been resoled by Milford’s late husband, Bob, who made his living as a cobbler.
“Everybody got goosebumps,” says Bobbie Hahn. Her ministry, Loving God Out Loud, has teamed up with Hope Evangelical Free Church to try to save Milford’s home. They’ve made steady progress. Volunteers have removed all of the old lead-laden drywall, ceilings, and flooring from the home. Sam McCann, owner of McCann Construction and current president of the Homebuilders Association of Illinois, is coordinating the project.
“I get a lot of these phone calls,” McCann says. He has to deny most requests and didn’t plan to help Milford, but Hahn talked him into attending a planning session. Once he met Milford, McCann — who was reared by his grandmother — signed on as project foreman.  
“It just seemed like there was probably no worthier cause to be involved in,” he says. Calvin Pitts, a union electrician and owner of BONE LLC, showed up to help along with wife Angela, brother Floyd, and a few BONE employees. BONE stands for Bringing Others to New Empowerment, and Pitts is teaching East Side men how to do construction work. Pitts grew up on Brandon Drive, three doors down from Milford.
“She’s my mother’s age,” he says. The team is now ready to start repairing the home’s foundation — a task that must be handled by a professional contractor. “We really need a foundation contractor or crew,” McCann says. “The foundation is one of the first inspections the city will do, and if it’s not done right that will set the tone for every inspection.”
The city of Springfield had previously condemned Milford’s home, but a judge granted a 60-day extension to allow Hahn and the volunteers a chance to save the structure. “If it wasn’t for that pesky timeframe, it wouldn’t be so bad,” McCann says. “We just need money and volunteers, and we need ’em in a hurry.”
Once the structural integrity of the house is restored, the fun part will begin. Staff Carpet has invited Milford and her grandchildren to select floor coverings for the entire house — for free. Another donor has offered Milford a washing machine, and Hope church has donated approximately $5,000 to the project. Hahn has set up a Web site — www.dorothy-milford-project.com — to provide updates and clickable portals for anyone wanting to donate time or money to the project. Milford, meanwhile, says that she is overwhelmed. “I truly didn’t think I was going to get this house back. Every time I talked to somebody, the price would go higher,” she says. “I do a lot of praying, and I know the Lord hears me.” 

Contact Dusty Rhodes at drhodes@illinoistimes.com.
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