Living in the little stucco house on 11th Street West had become an ordeal for Betty Hammond.
The air-conditioning hadn’t worked in two years.
The kitchen sink was separated from the wall.
The roof leaked.
“I was running out of buckets and pots when it rained,” the 78-year-old widow said Monday. “Hopefully, I had enough.”
After living in the house for 18 years, the retired Palmetto Elementary School custodian was too sick and too broke to get everything fixed.
“I might’ve moved in with some of my children, let me stay one place or the other,” the mother of nine said. “I would’ve been running pillar to post trying to find somewhere to live, but a blessing came to me.”
Hammond’s dwelling was chosen as the pilot home for the Palmetto Community Redevelopment Agency’s new Residential Rehab Program.
Financed by the CRA, it incorporates code enforcement, law enforcement, fire safety and public works to pinpoint houses in need of overhaul.
The CRA then works with outside agencies -- i.e., Habitat for Humanity, Florida Power & Light -- to help remodel the homes for owners who qualify for assistance and bring the building up to code.
Think Hammond was pleased?
“She was astounded when she found out what was going to happen,” said Antoinette Kilgore, CRA administrative assistant and project liaison.
“I thought it was too good to be true,” Hammond said. “I was so happy I didn’t know what to do.”
It was all done for her.
From May until this month, Hammond’s humble abode received a full makeover -- new AC, appliances, cabinetry, floors, paint, roof, windows -- with Habitat volunteers doing much of the heavy lifting.
Jim Frame did some of the demolition work, but thought refurbishing the house a daunting task at first.
“I didn’t know whether we’d be able to do what was necessary -- that roof was in danger of caving in -- but we’re delighted how everything turned out,” said Habitat’s board chairman. “This project fits our mission -- people helping people.”
There will be more for Habitat to help renovate.
The CRA plans to start work on another home in November with another seven or eight on the waiting list.
Hammond’s home, which also was outfitted for crime and fire prevention, will be dedicated soon.
Although the renovation didn’t cost her a dime, the matriarch must be sure to avoid any code violations over the next five years.
“We want to make sure she can live out her life here,” Kilgore said.
Dwight Hammond liked the sound of that.
The difference in his mother’s house before and after was astounding.
“It’s 100 percent better,” he said. “100 percent.”
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055.