Fort Mill woman moves into remodeled home, once condemned, just in time for Christmas

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comDecember 25, 2012 

— Jackie Dixon, who raises five of her 13 grandchildren in a house condemned by the city of Fort Mill, fell to her knees to pray when news came that she had a year to fix her home or risk losing it.

The cost of fixing the 43-year-old house, sitting at the corner of Anderson Street off Tom Hall Street in what neighbors call the Paradise community, was too big a burden for Dixon, whose daughter, Kisha Dixon, took out personal loans to pay to upgrade the house’s plumbing, roofing and tree work only to learn it still wasn’t good enough.

“Nobody’s helping her but me and God,” Kisha Dixon said, tears falling down her face.

That was until Jackie Dixon met Susan Midgley.

On Christmas Day, Jackie Dixon and her family will move into a remodeled home with all the fixings – a fresh coat of paint, new appliances and furniture, and remodeled bedrooms and bathrooms.

For Dixon, 52, the remodeled home – “a blessing,” she calls it – is a long time coming after a two-year struggle.

Initially, a woman claiming to be a part a nonprofit Christian ministry told Dixon and her family that she’d help them with their house. But instead, the woman showed up at the house with a “trash dump” and threw away all of the family’s valuables, including Jackie Dixon’s photo albums, pictures of her children and grandchildren and her clothes.

The woman said she would replace everything, but she never did, Jackie Dixon said.

“The whole house got thrown away,” Kisha Dixon said. “Pictures...memories...everything. We didn’t have anything.”

A city inspector came in, Jackie Dixon said, and saw an exposed wire on the floor. He noted several plumbing issues, as well as “the roaches” Kisha Dixon said could be found crawling across the floor.

The house was condemned, and Jackie Dixon was given a year to make it right. She emptied her retirement account to hire a plumber and contractor. They only fixed the house to the point of passing inspection, leaving much work undone.

Nearly at her wit’s end, Jackie Dixon asked God to send someone to help. Two weeks later in July, Susan Midgley, a member of Philadelphia United Methodist Church in Fort Mill’s Baxter Village, knocked on her door, offering her a plate of food.

But Midgley, who serves with the church’s Serving Meals Ministry – which delivers hot meals to people living in the Paradise community – said she felt like she needed to do more than just pass out food once a month.

When Dixon gave Midgley a tour of her house and explained her situation, Migdley knew what she had to do.

“I didn’t now what to say to her other than to say, ‘I’m called to help you,” Midgley said. She told Jackie Dixon: “As long as you and I know that I’m not qualified and we know this is God’s grace, we’re going to start. It was too powerful to ignore.”

Midgley organized an effort to restore Dixon’s home. She reached out to companies for donations, solicited help from people in her Fair Oaks neighborhood, rallied her church behind the project and joined forces with St. John’s United Methodist Church and Salkehatchie, a volunteer group of young people.

“It was a daunting job,” Midgley said, adding that neither Philadelphia nor St. John’s United Methodist churches had any money to start the project. But “God provided us with everything we needed” through fundraisers and donations, she said.

“God’s grace was definitely a part of it,” said Matt Wolbert, who helped with plumbing and photography. Alongside Chuck Hailey, director of Rock Hill’s Salkehatchie Summer Service and the man Kisha Dixon said was “the daddy we never got to have,” Wolbert undertook the project, meeting with Midgley and church pastors to begin what they thought would be a $7,000 endeavor.

It soon turned into a “$20,000 and some project,” Wolbert said. “I really don’t understand how it all happened.”

“When we first started, we thought, ‘what have we gotten ourselves into?’” added Gene Blackwelder, a member of St. John’s Methodist Church whom the Dixons say worked on the house from start till finish. “Everything just started coming together. We became very attached to the family.”

A Mason jar at Hair Razors beauty shop on Tom Hall Street quickly filled with donated cash and coins. It’s the same money Midgley said volunteers used to buy presents for the grandkids.

“It’ll be the best Christmas they’ve ever had,” she said.

It’s the first Christmas Kisha Dixon’s had since she was eight, when she and her siblings took baths at wash houses and wore each other’s clothes.

Kisha Dixon, 29, said she didn’t know the true meaning of family until she met the people who, with hammers and nails in hand, restored her mother’s home. When possible she joined them, dismantling her mother’s old roof to later renovate it.

“I feel like now, we have a different family,” she said.

From September until this past Friday, volunteers worked on the house every day except Sunday, said Kevin Cooley, pastor of Philadelphia United Methodist Church. They followed guidelines set by city inspectors to make sure the house was up to code.

Finishing work on the house by Christmas wasn’t planned, he said.

“What we respond to is where we feel God’s grace calling us,” Cooley said. “It happened to be Jackie Dixon this time. We don’t know where it’ll be next time.”

“I feel like my house is done in love and faith,” Jackie Dixon said. “It’s a new beginning for life.”

She added: “You have to believe. God still answers prayer. There are still good people living out here.”

Jonathan McFadden (803) 329-4082

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