by Josh Lanier
STALLINGS – Hundreds of local volunteers spent last weekend ripping out walls, re-staining furniture and nearly rebuilding a Stallings home to provide one family with an extreme makeover.
The volunteers, organized by Next Level Church, came to the Spring Hill Drive home May 3 and began the arduous task of completely remodeling Akela Stephens’ small three-bedroom house.
Stephens’ home was chosen after social workers at Antioch Elementary School, where Stephens’ kids attend, thought the house would be a good candidate for an upgrade and contacted Next Level Church. Before the remodel, Stephens didn’t have central air conditioning or heat, the bedrooms were cramped and the subfloor had started to rot.
“These were all things that went into our decision in choosing a home to makeover,” said Melissa Jackson with Next Level Church. “We want to find a home where we can make the biggest impact and really help out a local family.”
This is the fifth home to receive a Next Level Church makeover, Jackson said.
And while volunteers focused on the makeover, Stephens, her three children, her mother and sister – all who live in the home – were living a pampered life at the Staybridge Suites in Ballantyne. The Charlotte hotel donated the rooms, and a number of local restaurants donated free meal vouchers for the family as they waited on their renovated digs. The family spent their days at a number of local attractions like the U.S. National White Water Center and the Raptor Center in Huntersville.
“We want the family to really enjoy themselves,” Jackson said. “That’s what matters to us. To know that while we’re working on their house they are able to go out and not worry about it.”
Stephens worried a little, she said.
“It was a little nerve wracking, I can’t lie,” she said. “I really had no idea what they were going to do to my house. The only thing they asked me was what pieces of furniture I wanted to keep. I didn’t know what to expect.”
In true “Extreme Home Makeover” fashion the family was brought to the house blindfolded Sunday, May 5, for the big reveal.
“When I first saw it, I thought, ‘this isn’t my house,’” Stephens said. “I really thought they had taken me to the wrong house. I had to look at my neighbors to make sure.”
In all, volunteers laid sod, installed new shrubs in front of the house, put on a new roof, rewired the entire home, installed central heating and air conditioning, remodeled the bedrooms to maximize space, tore out walls to expand certain rooms and added windows. This is on top of the new appliances and furniture added to the home.
Kevin Kennedy, volunteer coordinator for the project, said the biggest focus for his crews was on creating a home that not only looked nice, but was functional.
“We wanted to make sure they would have something they could really use,” he said. “Give them something that they want to use.”
Stephens’ favorite room now is the kitchen where volunteers tore out a wall that separated the kitchen and dining room to create enough space for the entire family to sit down to dinner.
“We’ve never been able to do that before because there was no room,” Stephens said. “That really means a lot to me.”