LUMBERTON — A group of unpaid volunteers is asking the public’s help in renovating a home for a woman who has been wheelchair bound since being severely injured in a traffic accident.
The house needs work to accommodate her needs.
“The lady here got into a car accident. Her legs got mangled,” said Randy Lewis, the unofficial leader of the Zion Hill Group.
The accident happened on May 7, 2017, Lewis said. Teresa Cummings has been traveling back and forth to Chapel Hill for treatment of injuries that have progressed to the point where the doctors are talking about amputating her right leg at the hip.
“She doesn’t care to do that,” Lewis said. “She’s OK with them cutting the leg off at the knee so she can get a prosthetic, so it will bend.”
Cummings, a 1994 graduate of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, has been living with her parents in Rowland because she needs help taking care of herself. However, the hallway in her parents’ home is too narrow for her wheelchair. Cummings has fallen twice trying to negotiate the hallway while using a crutch..
Cummings has purchased a home on Arlean Drive in Lumberton, Lewis said. Members of the nine-man strong Zion Hill Group have been to the home to determine what needs to be done to make the house more wheelchair-friendly.
Handicap accessible kitchen cabinets and a handicapped accessible range need to be installed, he said.
“We’re going to build a handicapped shower so she can roll into it with her wheelchair,” Lewis said.
New cabinets and handrails also need to be installed in the bathroom, he said. The carpeting needs to be replaced with vinyl flooring so the wheelchair can be maneuvered more easily about the house, and interior and exterior doorways need to be widened so Cummings can get through them while in her wheelchair.
Blackburn Roofing Company, of Lumberton, will repair the home’s roof, Lewis said. Charles Blackburn, the company’s owner, has said the roof is in bad shape.
“They do all our roofs for free,” Lewis said.
Lewis is asking people to send gift cards from Lowe’s Home Improvement or Builder’s Discount Center. If donors include a return address they will be sent a receipt showing what was bought using the cards.
Donations can be sent to Zion Hill Baptist Church, 12883 N.C. 41, Lumberton, N.C. 28358, in care of James or Mike Sessoms.
Lewis has spent days calling churches and people trying to raise donations.
“I have been told no many times,” Lewis said.
It’s not that the churches don’t want to help, they just have nothing left to give in the wake of helping with Hurricane Matthew recovery efforts, he said.
The Zion Hill Group gets 50 to 60 calls a day from people wanting housing assistance, Lewis said.
Cummings said she learned of Lewis and the Zion Hill Group when she saw them repairing her pastor’s home in Rowland.
“I went up to them and asked for their help,” Cummings said.
The group began as people wanting to help victims of Hurricane Matthew.
“We’re all Christians from three different churches, and one of them is actually a pastor,” Lewis said.
According to Lewis, they first met when the other members of the group saw Lewis cooking food for the Hurricane Matthew victims who had been displaced to the Motel 6 in Lumberton. They saw that the 54-year-old retiree with a pacemaker and defibrillator implanted in his chest was exhausted, so they decided to help.
The men brought him food and other supplies needed to help feed the storm victims, Lewis said. They even helped cook some of the food.
Their collaboration expanded to building ramps for Matthew victims in wheelchairs for whom they found rental property into which they could move.
“We helped the ones who rented and we could find them someplace to live,” Lewis said.
From there the mission expanded to helping victims with nowhere to live.
“So we started building homes for them,” Lewis said.
To date the Zion Hill group has repaired or renovated five homes. A total of 40 apartments have been repaired or had wheelchair ramps built at them.
Reach T.C. Hunter by calling 910-816-1974 or via email at [email protected]