It was an emotional day in Pontiac on Saturday as hundreds of Kensington Orion members gathered around to watch the Banta family's reaction to their new home.
For its Spring Serve, Kensington Community Church's Orion Campus decided to build a house for one lucky family in Pontiac. Grace Centers of Hope partnered in the operation by donating the land for constructing the home.
Through plenty of coordination and the good fortune of having more than 1,000 volunteers who donated their time and resources, Kensington Orion was able to build the home in a week's time.
"This is the first house that Kensington has ever built from scratch in a week. Kind of crazy, but it has been an amazing adventure," said Nancy Wurm, co-director of Kensington Orion.
Unveiling the Banta family's new house
The Banta family arrived around 4 p.m. Saturday in a gold van, stepping out of the van blindfolded. After parents Lee and Elaine Banta, along with their 10-year-old son Leeland, took off their blindfolds and were joined by their two young grandchildren who live with them, the excitement peaked.
Neighbors, Banta family members and Kensington Orion volunteers started chanting "Move that Trailer", mocking the TV show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, substituting trailer for bus because two trailers were blocking the view of the house. Lee and Leeland were all smiles as the house was revealed, while Elaine held her hand to her mouth appearing to be in disbelief as she choked back tears.
"It was awesome, more than we even expected," Elaine said after touring their new home.
Wurm said that the Banta family was selected after reviewing many applications that were sent in from the Pontiac School District. The Banta family, which was living in an apartment, received many referals, Wurm said. It was apparent they were deserving and could bring alot to the neighborhood, she said.
"He is a bright light and encourages those around him ... they're going to impact a lot of families in this neighborhood for good," Wurm said of Lee and his family.
Audra Bell who works at Walton Charter Academy in Pontiac along with Lee, who is head custodian for the school, said that the Banta family was the perfect selection for the house.
"They're just a loving Christian family; very humble," Bell said. "They volunteer at the school ... you couldn't think of a better family for this to be given to. This house will be well cared for and the neighborhood will be looked after. They're just good people."
'It's not just about the house'
Kensington Orion has plans to stick around in Pontiac and help more families. The past couple weeks has been a good start, said Wurm, as the volunteers created relationships with the surrounding neighbors. Aside from the relationships and house they built, volunteers spread out throughout the neighborhood the past week making improvements to sidewalks, doing landscaping work, repairing siding of homes and taking care of numerous other issues brought to their attention.
"It's not just about the house, we've also been doing work in the neighborhood - cleaning up, repairing, weeding ... just making the neighborhood feel great and look good," Wurm said.
Kensington volunteer Laurie Sparks of Rochester Hills said many volunteers joined her at Rogers Elementary School in Pontiac to make an impact there as well.
"The idea is to really come together as a community and locking arms," Sparks said.
Likewise Rochester Hills resident and Kensington volunteer and member Larry Allen said, "That's what this is all about, a positive impact ... this was a great opportunity to impact the entire community."
Using all the volunteers
Jim Pritchard, Kensington Orion member who worked as the project coordinator, coordinating volunteers and getting crews lined up to get the project completed, said that 20 to 30 people were able to work on the house at any given time. Since there was an overwhelming outpouring of volunteers, helping out the rest of the neighborhood just made sense.
Pritchard noted that Life Remodeled, a Westland-based nonprofit that partners with churches and nonprofits to build homes for families in need, facilitated the process and the volunteers and contractors followed it. They will also be partnering with Kensington's Troy Campus to build a home in Hazel Park in a couple weeks.
Though there were a couple of days that rain could have put a damper on the pace, Pritchard said he believes it acted as a motivator and got volunteers working even faster.
"It went great, it's just gorgeous," Pritchard said of the house.
Pritchard noted that with such a big church congregation, they were lucky enough to tap into many companies that are represented in the church, recruiting carpenters, electricians, interior decorators and more. Jason Faraday of CBW Contractors and Chad Nightingale of Nightingale Construction & Remodeling were two of the general contractors onsite leading the home build.
Many items, including the furniture and the roof, were completely donated, and other items were discounted. Members of the church and other community members donated to the project, footing much of the bill; Kensington Community Church took care of the rest.
"We want to be in Pontiac for the long haul and really help out, make a difference," Becky Lee, co-director of Kensington Orion said.
Do you have your own photos of the project? Share them with Patch readers here, but clicking "Upload Photos."