MEREDITH Mitchell had an idea of the wide range of friends her husband, Allen, made over the years in the Batesburg-Leesville and Lexington communities. Since Allen’s death on Sept. 9, Mitchell has found just how far-reaching her late husband’s impact was.
The story of Allen Mitchell’s life has been celebrated many times over the past couple of weeks, the tales told of his days as a quarterback and baseball player at South Carolina, as well as his giving heart through ministries work at his church and coaching of Lexington Dixie Youth Baseball.
Now his friends are repaying Mitchell for his friendship through an outpouring of support for his widow and their two children.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anything quite like it,” says the Rev. Scott Vaughan, who conducted Mitchell’s funeral services on Sept. 12 at Lexington Baptist Church.
Two days after the service, on a Friday, Meredith and her two children decided they no longer could reside in the Hammond Bay condominium where Allen took his life. In stepped Brian Yarborough, a friend of Allen’s and the fiancé of Summer Meetze, Meredith’s best friend.
Yarborough wanted to renovate a ranch style vacant house in disrepair in Batesburg-Leesville and eventually put it on the market. Instead, he offered the home to the Mitchells.
“Once that decision was made,” Meredith says, “the troops moved in.”
Those troops were mobilized at the Sunday School class Allen attended and the church group he participated in. They were mobilized at Gold’s Gym by Meredith’s co-workers. They were mobilized by his fellow Dixie Youth Baseball coaches and parents. When word spread, some citizens of Batesburg-Leesville mobilized.
“It was just an amazing scene of the community coming together,” says Russell Stringer, who along with his wife, Evette, helped organize efforts through the church. “It’s amazing how many lives Allen touched that they felt so obligated to go take care of Meredith and those kids. It’s just a testament to how many people he touched and how good a friend he was to a lot of people.”
The number of friends who descended on the Batesburg-Leesville house reached into the hundreds. It became what Vaughan described as a two-day, “extreme home makeover.”
Co-workers at Gold’s Gym and women from Lexington Baptist Church began painting the interior of the house on Friday. Several trips were made to Lowe’s by Mitchell’s Sunday School class, money coming out of pockets to cover the cost of paint, as well as for light fixtures and ceiling fans and anything else that needed updating.
Jimmy Rawls, who operates Jimmy Rawls Auto Auction in Batesburg-Leesville, heard about what was happening and he opened his tab for any expenses incurred at Ace Hardware.
By Saturday, there were almost too many people at the house to get any work done. Ten weed-eaters, a couple of lawn mowers and two pressure washers were used by 30 or so men to take care of the exterior. Carpet was replaced. New curtains were hung.
On Sunday, Mitchell’s fellow Dixie Youth League coaches and parents of the players he coached descended on the condominium the family was leaving. Shift A packed all the Mitchells belongings. Shift B moved everything to the new house. Shift C put everything in place.
By Sunday evening, the Mitchells were ready to move in to their “new” home. When Meredith and her 10-year-old daughter Riley and 7-year-old son Walker entered the house, every kitchen plate was in a cupboard, TVs were hooked up, clothes were hanging in closets. A framed USC jersey the children gave to Mitchell this past Father’s Day was hanging in the master bedroom.
Meredith could not contain her appreciation.
“Thank you, so much,” she said.
“It’s nothing Allen Mitchell hasn’t done for me,” she said was the standard reply, or “nothing Allen Mitchell wouldn’t have done for me or you and these kids.”
The community support did not end there. Gift cards were collected at church and presented to the family. Friends continue to troop by the house daily with meals for the Mitchells. A couple of friends anonymously covered the cost of health insurance for the family through December.
It is enough, Meredith said, to make the family know Allen Mitchell no longer is around in body, but his spirit remains.