Foundation helps replace local woman’s home

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Friday morning, Jacksboro resident Reba Wilson opened the door to her new home.

Wilson’s former residence had fallen into disrepair. There was exposed electrical wiring, the roof leaked and mold was growing in the bedroom. Wilson’s son-in-law, Doug Kibbler, had attempted to maintain the home. When he brought some members from his church, First Baptist Church of LaFollette, to evaluate the situation, they told him there was nothing he could do.

That’s when Kibbler went to his pastor, Dr. Duane Mills.

“We felt like we couldn’t just ignore a need in our own backyard,” Mills said.

Mills contacted his sister, Marla Jackson, executive director for the Tennessee Housing Association and the Tennessee Manufactured Housing Foundation.

The THA chartered the TMHF in 1995.

Before 1995, there wasn’t a foundation that helped people who lived in manufactured homes, Jackson said.

The TMHF is self-funded through fundraisers and donations within the industry. It receives requests, repairing, renovating and weatherproofing manufactured homes through an emergency assistance program.

In January, the TMHF was awarded a $1 million, 50-50 matching grant through the Tennessee Housing Development Agency. This grant is being used for a three-year pilot program, which offers home replacement to applicants who qualify.

Candidates for the pilot program must be 60 years or older or disabled veterans, own their home and property. Applicants’ primary residence must be the house they want replaced, and they must plan to live there for at least seven years, Jackson said. The size of the new home is determined by the needs of the family.

“We forgive the cost of the project,” Jackson said. “We are gifting the home to the family.”

When Mills called Jackson about Wilson’s situation, she told him to have her apply to the pilot program.

“And it happened,” Mills said. “It’s an exciting process.”

Wilson applied last fall. She found out in January she would receive a new home.

Reba Wilson’s old home had structural and safety issues, from degradation.

This factored into her selection for a new house, Jackson said. The new home is safer, and it’s an energy star home, meaning it has more energy efficient windows, doors and HVAC. This will give Wilson a higher comfort level, providing her with warmer winters, cooler summers and lower energy bills, even though the new home, at 1,100 square feet, is two feet wider and four feet longer than the old one.

The new home also came with new appliances. This is the first time Wilson has had a dishwasher, Mills said.

The TMHA partnered with Clayton homes for the project.

Wilson’s is the first home to be repaired under this new TMHF program. There is now a waiting list for the program.

Mills calls it a “Cinderella Story.”

“They got the home,” Mills said. “The foundation takes care of the funding. A $55,000 gift. That’s huge. They don’t have to pay that back. That’s a wonderful gift. They’re as deserving a family for this as any other.”

To help replace funds the TMHF spent to match the grant, FBCL will host a fundraiser in October.