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'Such a blessing': Forsyth County roofing company stepped in to help a couple in need
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Workers with Hopewell Roofing & Restoration replace a local couple's roof on Friday, March 29, 2019, as part of the company's "Roof of Hope" program. - photo by Ben Hendren

Roof of Hope 2019

Hopewell Roofing Roof of Hope 2019

Andy Morrison didn’t expect to see Sheila McDonnell come to the door. He knew the lifelong Forsyth County resident usually stayed in bed coping with a medical condition that left her in near-constant pain.

But McDonnell resolved to thank Morrison and his crew for selecting her and her husband’s home for this year’s “Roof of Hope” project by Hopewell Roofing & Restoration, which provides a new roof for a local person or family in need who can’t otherwise afford it.

“They are such a blessing,” Sheila said. “We needed it so bad.”

Morrison started Hopewell in 2009, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that he started the “Roof of Hope” project after an impromptu conversation with a friend who works in commercial roofing and has a daughter with special needs. She worked at Special Kneads and Treats, a bakery in Lawrenceville that employs people with special needs, and their roof was in bad shape. Morrison loved the bakery’s mission, so he offered to help.

“Just a small little job,” Morrison said. “We didn’t even think twice about it.”

But Morrison loved the chance it gave his company to give back to the community, and so he created “Roof of Hope,” an annual project to provide a new roof for a local person or family in need but who couldn’t otherwise afford it.

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A crew member of Hopewell Roofing & Restoration take measurements on Friday, March 29, 2019, while working on the company's "Roof of Hope" project. - photo by Ben Hendren
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Crew members of Hopewell Roofing & Restoration work on Friday, March 29, 2019, during the company's "Roof of Hope" project. - photo by Ben Hendren

“These things are hiding around every corner,” Morrison said. “How many people don’t even get up the courage to ask for help on something like this?”

This year’s project was the third for Hopewell. Morrison works with local organizations to find prospective people or families. Morrison connected with the McDonnells through Hunter Bennett, the community relations leader with Forsyth County Senior Services and a friend of Morrison’s.

The McDonnell’s home had no outward signs of problems when Hopewell’s crew arrived for an initial inspection, Morrison said. They simply saw a beige-siding, barn-style home that Garry McDonnell has lived in since it was built in 1980. Sheila moved in five years later after they married, and they’ve lived there ever since.

But maintaining the home has been a challenge for the McDonnells. Garry had been trying his best, but the retired insurance auditor is 80, and he takes care of Sheila, 56, who has a host of medical complications. The Forsyth County native lost her leg in a life-threatening lawnmower accident when she was 6 years old, but more recently she’s struggled with the effects of degenerative disc disease. Sheila has had multiple surgeries on her neck and back, she said, including one to implant a spinal cord stimulator to help control the pain from the disease. Even so, she takes morphine three times a day, she said.

“Mostly I just stay in the bed 24/7,” Sheila said.

When the Hopewell crew removed the roof, they found the roof decking “completely rotten and waterlogged,” Morrison said. Some parts had caved in so bad that they could see into the home’s interior.

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Crew members of Hopewell Roofing & Restoration work on Friday, March 29, 2019, during the company's "Roof of Hope" project. - photo by Ben Hendren
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Hopewell Roofing & Restoration replaced a local couple's roof for free for its "Roof of Hope" project on Friday, March 29, 2019. - photo by Ben Hendren

“We didn’t realize how bad of shape it was in,” Sheila said.

But Hopewell got to work. With materials donated from Commercial Roofing Specialties Inc., and disposal services from Lookout Dumpsters, Morrison’s crew had a new roof on the McDonnell’s home in just a few days.

“I cried off and on all day just from the happiness,” Sheila said. “I’ve been hugging everybody.”

The project gave Morrison a now-familiar feeling of satisfaction, but it also left him somewhat unsatisfied that Hopewell couldn’t do more to help with other repairs needed in the McDonnell’s home.

Morrison now feels inspired to expand the scope of “Roof of Hope.” He hopes to build relationships with more companies in the building industry who would donate labor and materials to make an even bigger impact for people and families who need help getting out of unfit living conditions.

Really, it’s more than a hope for Morrison — it’s an ethos.

“I feel like if everybody could do just a little bit, just do their part, that the world’s problems would essentially disappear overnight,” Morrison said.