Long County residents gathered Monday at the Ludowici Church of God to begin the organizational process of building a house for Thomas and Gladys Patton, who lost their home last month in the fire that burned more than 4,000 acres. Fifteen people, including builders, homemakers and firefighters, attended the meeting to learn how they could help with the project.
Local builder Lamar Poole, who is coordinating the effort, welcomed everyone and explained his reasons for getting involved.
“My home was right in the middle of that fire. We were 50 feet from losing our place, too, so we could be sitting in the same place as Mr. Tommie, not having a home,” Poole said.
Gladys Patton talked about the day she and her husband lost their Mill Pond Road home.
“I was at home when the deputy told me I had to leave now. The fire was in the backyard. There was an orange glare at the tips of the trees. I didn’t know it then, but that was the fire,” she said.
After their house was destroyed, the Pattons said they weren’t sure what to do until Poole paid them a visit.
“Two days after our house burned, Lamar got with us and said that God had put it on his heart to help us. He then said that God put it on his heart to help us build our home back,” Gladys Patton said. “When I learned of this, all I could say was, ‘wow,’ and then boo hoo, boo hoo, here come the tears. Perfect strangers were opening their arms to us, but you know that’s what God intended for us to do. For me, this was the first time in my life where I actually experienced anyone helping me like this.”
Her husband also was amazed at kindness of those who offered to help.
“It is an overwhelming feeling, but also a humbling feeling,” Thomas Patton said.
Poole said he already has the labor force to rebuild the Patton home, but materials for the project are needed.
“We want to get this rolling over the next week or two so we need to get the word out as much as we can,” he said.
Poole is compiling a list of needed materials so vendors and individuals either can donate the items or money to help buy the equipment.
Local developer Bill Nutting, who also attended the meeting, said he will do all he can to assist with the project.
“We’re ready to knock down the rest of the existing house and, for that matter, we’ll clear some of the brush around where the new home will be to prevent this from ever happening again,” Nutting said.
Poole said the group needs a plumber and an electrician on board, and materials necessary to pour a slab are first on the list.
Ludowici/Long County Fire Chief Darrell Ballance said at the meeting that community-wide fundraisers would be a good way for area residents to help raise money for materials.
“We could get together as a community, maybe with the churches, and do a cookout or a gospel sing. This way, everyone would be able to donate to the cause,” Ballance said. “We saw this community come together during the fire, and I believe that they will come together after the fire, too.”
For information on how to help, call Poole at 294-3038. An account has been set up at the Ludowici Bank, where donations can be made.