Widow returns to Hilton Head home after renovation by nonprofits, volunteers

tbarton@islandpacket.comOctober 12, 2013 


Hilton Head Island's Henrietta Simmons stands next to Brian Sanford, construction manager with the Hilton Head Regional Habitat for Humanity Wednesday afternoon in front of her mother's home.

SARAH WELLIVER — Sarah Welliver Buy Photo

Henrietta Simmons' childhood home on Hilton Head Island was crumbling. Her mother, Albertha Stuart, was forced to move because the house was no longer safe.

There was little Henrietta or her family could do about it.Rather than lose a piece of history -- the house across from Jarvis Creek has belonged to the same native-island family for generations -- Simmons got help from the S.C. Housing Authority's home-repair program and Hilton Head Regional Habitat for Humanity to reclaim the house.

On Saturday, Albertha will move back in, and on Monday, Habitat will conduct a public re-dedication of the house, which has been restored.

"For (Albertha), this makes a new lease on life for her," Henrietta Simmons said during a tour of the home Wednesday. "It's almost as if you're dealing with a brand new house. To see what they came in and did -- restoring a home made unlivable for her -- is remarkable.

"There was more to the house than what they bargained for, and it's a blessing ... to see how sympathetic and compassionate people can be."Simmons' father, Henry Stuart, grew up in the small three-bedroom house off William Hilton Parkway. He worked as a deep-sea fisherman from the Carolinas to South America and inherited the house in the 1940s from his father and raised four children with Albertha.

Henry died in 1993, but Albertha, 89, continued to live in the house until its condition forced her to move in with her other daughter in Philadelphia two years ago, Simmons said.

The roof leaked, and water and termite damage had rotted floor beams. The bathroom floor had buckled. Stairs and railings were falling apart, making it increasingly difficult for Albertha, who had two knee replacements, to get in and out of the house.Simmons turned to the S.C. Housing Authority's home-repair program, but the necessary work cost more than the money available.

So council officials turned to Hilton Head Regional Habitat for Humanity.

The Housing Authority paid for materials for the $23,500 renovation, while Habitat and its construction manager and volunteers provided labor and oversight.

The Hilton Head Public Service District provided sewer connections, and Rose Hill residents raised money for new windows. Several local businesses pitched in.

About 30 volunteers worked five hours a day, five days a week for five months installing a new roof, windows, insulation, drywall, floors, a kitchen and a bathroom.

"We basically gutted the house down to the frame, made structural repairs -- replaced floor beams and leveled the house, which was settling -- and put it back together," said construction manager Brian Sanford."The house has come full circle, and the family will be back home again," said Hilton Head Regional Habitat for Humanity CEO Pat Wirth.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom

PUBLIC INVITATION: The public is invited to the re-dedication of a Habitat for Humanity house at 115 William Hilton Parkway at 6 p.m. Monday. Parking will be available in the parking lot of Memory Matters on the corner of William Hilton Parkway and Squire Pope Road.

Related Content:

Hilton Head Regional Habitat for Humanity restores family home: Oct. 10, 2013


Concert to benefit Habitat for Humanity of Hilton Head: Oct. 7, 2013


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