Local church provides much-needed new home


On Saturday, Ola Bell Denniston toured her new home quietly, deliberate in her travels over each carpeted foot.

"It's beautiful, really nice," Denniston said. "They worked real hard, I appreciate everybody. I don't know them by name, but I appreciate everything they've done."

What members of the Lexington Avenue Baptist Church did for Denniston was transform a shell of an old mobile home into a place that Denniston and her five grandchildren will be proud to call home. Denniston and her family had been making do in the humblest of homes in the Powell County community of Nada until it burned down a few weeks ago.

Church member Brenda Farmer, who spearheaded the project, proudly showed off the finished product, on which volunteers have been working on the lot behind the NAPA store on the Bypass since May. Redone floors, new plumbing in the bathroom, new bathroom fixtures, new linoleum and carpet, and some new windows are some of the things that were refurbished.


"We have done a lot," Farmer said. "Forty-some people have worked on it, some every week. It's been a gift of love. This is a house of love for this lady."

Denniston is arguably one of the poorest of the poor. Five of her grandchildren, ranging in age from 8 to 20, live with her, although she does not have legal custody of them. Her husband is in a nursing home after suffering a massive aneurysm, Farmer says.

She lived in a tiny, run-down residence in Nada until it burned down. Farmer said the house was only as big as the front end of the mobile home, with no running water, no bathroom, and one small bedroom. They didn't even have an outhouse until last year, Farmer added.

It was the mobile home's bathroom that made an immediate impression on Denniston. It came equipped with five embroidered towels hanging all in a row. White letters on each spelled out the names of the grandchildren: George, Tommy, James, Andrew and Melinda. Ola Bell's lavender towel hung by the door.

"Awesome," said granddaughter Melinda Denniston. "I'm glad everybody's doing this for us."

Farmer hugged Ola Bell close and marveled at the broom closet.

"Have you ever had one of these?" she asked excitedly.

"I like it all," Ola Bell Denniston said decisively while standing in her new living room. "Especially that bathroom and this living room. I've never had anything like that before."

Mission work brought Farmer and Denniston together

Farmer met Denniston through mission work in Nada, which is near Stanton and Mount Sterling. Keith Stillwell, the church's minister of education, said the church was led to the Dennistons through the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Those groups identified the 20 poorest counties in the United States, two of which are in Kentucky - Owsley and McCreary counties.

"Nada is as poor as those counties," Stillwell said.

Farmer said she noticed an announcement in a church bulletin last year that requested volunteers for Nada Baptist mission.

"I saw that and thought I needed to do it," she said, adding she was in the midst of a difficult period in her life. "So I called the church and told them I wanted to go."

Repair work was being done "up and down the holler," Farmer explained. Along the way, she met Denniston.

"God gave me this lady," she said. "I sat and talked with her. I saw potential in this lady. She needed something better. I came away from that mission trip knowing we needed to do something for her."

Farmer talked to fellow church members about the woman's need for a new home and started exploring options. The Rev. Paul Jarrett of Nada, who had been helping out the Dennistons, told Farmer, "You'll never get her out of the holler."

She asked Denniston if she would move if Farmer found her a mobile home to locate on the property. Denniston said she would.

"That's all I needed," Farmer said, laughing as she looked at Stillwell. "My dream for this woman to have a home became a nightmare for Lexington Avenue Baptist."

Waynesburg mobile home dealer gave her the fixer-upper

Farmer looked and looked for a mobile home, but those she saw were pricey. Finally, Mike Jones, who owns a mobile home dealership in Waynesburg gave her the fixer-upper.

"It was not pretty," she said. "Once (church members) saw it, they thought I was crazy. But as bad as it was, it was better than what she was living in."

Work got started in earnest in May. Farmer said church members worked on the mobile home every weekend. Along with the labor, Farmer said almost everything needed to repair the trailer was donated to the group.

"There's been a myriad of people who made this happen," Farmer said.

"Parts Smart and Roger Compton have been such a blessing. They let us (park) here for free. We've used Parts Smart water and electricity. They've been wonderful."

In Nada, a lot has been cleared, and is nearly ready for the mobile home. Topsoil must still be added, and a water line and septic system installed, but it won't be long.

Farmer is excited about Denniston having a new home.

"Love thy neighbor - that's what this is about," she said. "Ola Bell did the best she could with what she had. She never complained. If she asked for anything, it was for the children.

"That's why this mobile home is here. We're trying to give this lady hope."

And Farmer believes her path and Denniston's crossed through divine intervention.

"God gave me her. He gave me this family to love and care for. And He gave to the church. It hasn't just been the 40 people here. The whole church has been involved - it's taken the whole church."

Advocate staff writer Emily Burton contributed to this story.

Central Kentucky News Articles