Barbara Strickland seemed to savor every moment as she carefully crossed over the threshold of her new home for the first time Monday morning.
The 67-year-old Mrs. Strickland couldn't contain her tears as she toured the newly placed double-wide trailer that she will share with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
"It's just a miracle," she said of the approximately 800-square-foot Ooltewah home she received at no cost.
The Samaritan Center and 14 other agencies and businesses provided the used three-bedroom home to replace her dilapidated home. Mrs. Strickland said her old house had been deteriorating since 2006 when her husband died. She said the roof was leaking, the slanted house flooded often and a May storm took off the back porch.
"It was pretty rough," she said.
Shortly after passing through the furnished kitchen, living room and master bedroom, Mrs. Strickland found a comfortable spot in a wingback chair in the bedroom, her hands still shaking from all the excitement.
"I didn't think this was possible, but it is," Mrs. Strickland said. "And I just want to thank everybody."
The Samaritan Center presented the home in the style of the reality TV show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" by driving its truck away to unveil the white-sided house. The trailer was placed on the same lot as her older, crumbling home at 3945 Arthur Lane in Ooltewah. The used home cost about $25,000 to bring in, plus many donated supplies and countless hours of volunteering, said Sharon Smith, social services director for the The Samaritan Center, a social service agency that serves the eastern third of Hamilton County.
"We've never done anything like this," she said. "We didn't know what to do. She had to have some help."
Mrs. Strickland has raised her three grandchildren since 1994 and now lives with them and two great-grandchildren.
Her great-granddaughter, Amber Tant, said Mrs. Strickland had always done the best she could in providing for her family. She said her great-grandmother had to "kind of bite her tongue and ask for help" with the poor shape of their older home. In addition to the new house, the Samaritan Center has helped Ms. Tant get enrolled at Chattanooga State Community College, where she will start next semester.
"It's great," Ms. Tant said. "I won't have to worry about anything anymore."
Mrs. Strickland's 3-year-old great-grandson Brayden Brooks was equally thrilled by the home and spent the morning romping around on his new bunk bed.
"Do I get to stay here?" he said.
* The Samaritan Center
* Tennessee Housing Development Agency (Emergency repair program for the elderly)
* Relative Caregivers
* Ooltewah United Methodist Church
* City Disposal
* Chattanooga Pest Control
* Chattanooga State Community College AHEAD program
* Sam Bostic Dirt and Gravel
* Murmaid Mattress Co.
* Woodlee Appliance
* Scott's Furniture
* Steve Casteel Construction
* Ace Hardware of Ooltewah
* Alive in You Catholic Youth Volunteers
* Hampton Inn of Ooltewah