St. Elmo Home Rebuild for Ms. Wilma

St. Elmo Home Rebuild for Ms. Wilma

From Mary Anne Kristan

Ms Wilma Walker is 79, a life long resident of St. Elmo & widow of a war vet. Her home is unsafe and structurally irreparable. She is in short-term housing. We plan to demolish and rebuild, looking for donors.

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Update #1

28 days ago

Excited to visit Ms. Wilma today and tomorrow. She has received her 1st covid vaccine, woohoo, and so have I! I will be doing her laundry and a Food City run, plus some housekeeping today and tomorrow. Special shout-out to Katy Billings at Bloomheart Flower Co for the "extra bloom" we gave to Ms Wilma last month.

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Ms. Walker is my next-door neighbor, and I have been helping drive her around for errands over the last year or so, and grown to learn about her. At first, she appears to be indigent, though she lives in a “cute” little St. Elmo bungalow at 4415 Seneca Ave since she purchased it for her mother in 1989, who passed away in the late 90s I believe. She dresses in layers, is a bit dirty and disheveled, and doesn’t smell very pleasant.  Upon review, you realize that her home is quite a mess, and she doesn’t allow anyone inside. She mostly sits on her front porch with her mini Chihuahua, Teensie, reading her bible and saying to passersby “God bless you. Love you”.   She is a well-known community member around town, as a lifelong resident between Alton Park and St. Elmo. Most people just have no clue, as I also didn’t living directly next door, at the dangerous and toxic living conditions of her home. 

I became engaged just after Christmas, when her Deacon from Silverdale St Elmo church, returned my concerned voicemail. I left him a message because she had been without electricity for 2 months, EPB said the issue is inside her home, and she always told me that her church was coming to help her fix her house. Since it is winter, having no way to cook or stay warm was not acceptable (her plumbing also didn't work) I sent my electrician Seth Westbrook to her house. He advised that the outdoor connections were original to the house, and in such a state that it was dangerous to even touch it, and it is a blessing that something went wrong so that her house doesn’t catch fire from a stray electric current. We also witnessed severe swelling and sores on her legs. We immediately took her out of her house, and had her live in mine for the next two weeks.  We allowed her a few personal bags of memorables, and bought her new clothing and personal needs. She had her first bath in a bathtub and a night’s sleep in a clean bed in 2 years.  

Next, Tim took me into her house, and I cannot express to you the horror of how she was living. Each room was filled almost to the ceiling with clothing, books, 40 years of accumulated memories, and garbage. The ceilings, walls and floors were black, and disintegrating, almost melting over each room or split open exposing the attic.  There was barely a clear path on the floor for her to move around. In the living room, you see a single easy chair, where she lived, slept, and ate her meals, just two feet away from an old kerosene heater. The smell alone was something I will never forget, giving an instant flight reaction as if you are being poisoned. Seeing rats scatter about, is another memory etched in stone. This poor old woman never asked for anything, but the occasional ride to Food City, and to be sure you knew that God blesses you and she loves you. 

For now, we have moved Ms. Wilma into temporary housing while we remove all of the contents of her home. We have had dumpsters donated. The first one arrived on Friday 1/15 and on Saturday morning, 6 volunteers wore hazmat suits and ventilators and in 2.5 hours, cleared out the kitchen and ½ of the living room, to fill the dumpster. We need 3-4 more. Once it is cleaned out, we plan to demolish, pending approval of Historic Zoning Commission, to whom inspection has occurred along with a structural engineers report and all applications are submitted. We have a volunteer electrician who agreed to rewire a new home inside and out, working with EPB. We have volunteer plumbers that can help re-pipe the waterworks. We even have laborers who can help with demolition and ight remodeling work. What we are missing are the funds to purchase construction plans and materials, absent donations for these.  

I approach you, those in her St. Elmo community, and greater Chattanooga to see if there is anything you can do to help us help Ms. Wilma.  Her Father, uncle and brothers all served in the military, and with her mother, are buried in the National Cemetery downtown. Her deceased common-law husband Jack Maney was a Korean War vet, who is also buried there.  With such a long history of her and her family in this area, I would love to see the community be able to give back. She is surprisingly healthy and spry, and brags that her kin lived into their 100s, and I would expect the same from her. She is ½ Cherokee Indian, and Irish and Black Dutch, and is proud to share her heritage with anyone who will listen. Please donate today!

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Mary Anne Kristan posted a new update:
28 days ago

Update #1

Excited to visit Ms. Wilma today and tomorrow. She has received her 1st covid vaccine, woohoo, and so have I! I will be doing her laundry and a Food City run, plus some housekeeping today and tomorrow. Special shout-out to Katy Billings at Bloomheart Flower Co for the "extra bloom" we gave to Ms Wilma last month.

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