VOLUNTEER & PHILANTHROPIST
“the people at Christian City are like a second family to me.”
My primary community service was dedicated to Habitat for Humanity for about 25 years. I worked on 155 houses for Habitat over the years, and it was that association that led me to Christian City.
The person who was heading the Southern Crescent Habitat chapter in Jonesboro at the time came over to meet with the development director at Christian City to discuss a home construction project at the Children’s Village. The Habitat director recommended me, and I first worked on the construction of the Crisis Intervention cottage at the Children’s Village, a home used primarily for the Safe Place Runaway & Homeless Youth Program. On one big construction day, employee volunteers from Georgia Power, Delta Air Lines, and Square Foot Ministries showed up. Each group started in a corner and we met in the middle. It was beautiful!
Later, I managed the building of the food storage room, swimming pool and amphitheatre at the Children’s Village. The outdoor amphitheatre had already been designed, but the project was waiting for someone who knew how to build it. That’s what I had been doing my whole career, so it was “no hill for a climber,” as they say. Afterwards, I moved over to renovating about 50 homes in the active senior living neighborhoods, and then we repurposed a former children’s cottage into a recreation center for use by senior
I am fortunate to have enough so that I can contribute to causes I like, and I can’t think of anything more deserving of support than kids without a place to live. I know the people who are running Christian City, and I am confident any money I contribute will be well and fairly spent. To support people and a place that protects kids is the highest and best use of my money and time.
I enjoy working with the people at Christian City. They have been kind and respectful of my skills and abilities as a professional engineer, land surveyor and building contractor. I have some skills that they don’t have available to them on the campus, and those skills are transferable. This is what I enjoy doing – managing large scale projects with lots of pieces that need to come together.
Since I have been volunteering and managing construction projects at Christian City for a number of years now, I usually have another project lined up by the time we finish the current one. And that’s okay with me, because I like to stay busy.
A few years ago, Kim Mills-Smith, a friend of mine and Habitat for Humanity volunteer who is also a flight attendant for Delta Air Lines, began helping me with design choices for some of the construction projects at Christian City – paint colors, tile, mirrors, etc. She took an interest in renovating and repurposing a former children’s cottage that had not been in use since the new Children’s Village moved to another part of the Christian City campus.
The original Delta-Jim Turner Memorial cottage was built in 1972 and funded by employees of Delta Air Lines. To make a long story short, Kim Mills-Smith and Michel Aletraris, with Delta Tech Ops, took charge of the cottage renovation project and approached Delta about recruiting volunteers and donating the money needed. Delta Air Lines funded the renovation, and 20 to 30 Delta employee volunteers showed up every work day for several weeks to complete the project.
My volunteer role at Christian City is project manager, which means I pull people together to get the work done – some who know what they are doing and some who don’t, but all volunteers are willing to work. It’s a lot of fun. All you have to do is point out something that needs to be done and they jump on it. The biggest pressure on me from a project management standpoint is always two things: one is to make sure I’ve got all the materials needed, and the second is to make sure I’ve got something to keep everybody busy.
On the Delta-Jim Turner Memorial cottage renovation, the Delta Tech Ops employees jumped right in from the first day. We removed the roof, put up new trusses, and replaced HVAC, plumbing, electrical and drywall. Some of the floors were also replaced. We did a complete overhaul. It’s all brand new now, and we rededicated the 1972 cottage in May 2019. It was great to see so many people committed to making sure the project was completed
The renovated cottage is now a duplex home with two entrances. It has been repurposed for use by both the Children & Family Programs and Active Senior residents at Christian City. Jim Turner’s daughter, Jane Turner Hannon, and several retired Delta employees who had been involved with the original cottage building came to the rededication ceremony. It was special to meet those people and hear more about how the original cottage came to be built.
At the project kick-off event, Jane Turner Hannon said her father believed in developing relationships and that we all have a responsibility to other people. She said he lived out that belief through all aspects of his life, at Delta and in his church. Kim Mills Smith said the renovation project was creating a vision of hope for the next 47 years. I agree with that, and I like to think Jim Turner would be pleased with the renovation and repurpose of the cottage we just completed. He would have enjoyed seeing all the employee volunteers coming together for a good cause. I’m glad to have been able to be a part of the Delta-Jim Turner legacy at Christian City.
When I’m not working on a construction project, I like to make sure I’ve got something to do to keep busy. Usually I’m in my workshop at home turning wooden bowls, spoon carving, or working on other wood carving projects. It’s something to move to when everything else is caught up; and people seem to appreciate the pieces that I give to them.
My great grandfather was a buggy maker, so there’s history in my woodturning interest. He had a buggy shop in the backyard at his home in Crawfordville, near Augusta. That’s where I grew up. My dad was a dairy farmer and my mother was a school teacher. I graduated second in my high school class and applied to only one college, Georgia Tech, where I majored in civil engineering.
I suppose I’m high energy. I don’t normally take vacations; I take woodworking classes instead. I like to cultivate the myth that I can make anything I want!
Years ago, I had the idea to have the family put together and decorate a gingerbread house after the big Thanksgiving dinner, and that became an annual tradition. The idea took hold and we started making gingerbread houses for groups. One year I made eleven gingerbread houses!
I enjoy volunteering at Christian City and keep going back because the people appreciate what I do and respect my work and skills. Through my work, I’m able to bring a contribution that this non-profit doesn’t already have, but needs. It’s a very fulfilling association, and the people at Christian City are like a second family to me.
As I watch retired people moving into Christian City, it’s a real pleasure to help make the transition to retirement living a little more joyous and easier for them. I recognize that one day I’ll be making that transition, and hopefully someone will be there to make it easier for me, too.