Robert Shumpert is settling into his new home in South Congaree built by neighbors he knows, and others he doesn’t.
“Thank you,” he told more than 100 people who came to celebrate the home’s completion last weekend. “That’s all I know what to say.”
His new dwelling replaces a decaying 55-year-old mobile home in the center of the Lexington County community that town officials had deemed unsafe.
The effort to provide the 74-year-old developmentally disabled Shumpert a new place became a community project coordinated by Ebenezer Pentecostal Holiness Church, where his relatives were long-time members.
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“His situation went unrecognized,” said the Rev. Gene Henderson, pastor of the 300-member congregation. “When we realized the problem, everyone came together.”
Shumpert, a life-long resident of the area, is known as “the lawn mower man” both for the yard work and odd jobs he once did and for still riding those vehicles around town.
Starting in December, volunteers spent Saturdays putting up the 900-square-foot home with donated materials. Local builders also worked for free.
It was the first time the church had undertaken such a project, but members experienced in construction stepped forward to oversee the work.
“We didn’t have a lot but we all put in a little in the pot and this is the result,” Henderson said. “This is a miracle.”
Town leaders turned to the church for help after discovering the unlivable condition of his mobile home, instead of forcing Shumpert to search for a new residence.
Temporary improvements were made in the mobile home for him while work was under way on the new residence.
No one kept a running total, but church members estimate it was a $40,000 project entirely financed through contributions.
Shumpert marveled at the fully furnished home, complete with a life-size cardboard cutout of actor John Wayne and plenty of his favorite soft drinks in a new refrigerator.
“Thank God for the television,” Shumpert said. “I won’t be so lonesome.”
Leaders of the effort that produced the home promise he won’t be overlooked again.
A network of residents plans to look after Shumpert to assure his needs are met, former town clerk Patt Shull said.
Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483