First Flipping for Families home completed in Cordova
by Jennifer Cohron
Jun 07, 2011 | 5218 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Melody Dawkins wipes away tears as she accepts the keys of the first Flipping for Families house from program organizer Andrea Pate. - Photo by: Jennifer Cohron
Melody Dawkins wipes away tears as she accepts the keys of the first Flipping for Families house from program organizer Andrea Pate. - Photo by: Jennifer Cohron
CORDOVA -- Melody Dawkins heard two words she wasn't expecting on Monday -- welcome home.

Dawkins was the first beneficiary of the Flipping for Families program organized by Freewill Baptist Disaster Relief.

Dawkins' home was destroyed in the April 27 tornadoes. She has been living and working at the makeshift fire department downtown since the storms.

The house on Green Avenue that Dawkins received the keys to on Monday comes with a free lease for one year.

Andrea Pate, who has been coordinating the disaster relief efforts at Freewill Baptist Church, said Dawkins deserved the generous gift.

"Melody has been working nonstop from the very beginning of this disaster. She was one of the first people I saw downtown, and she is still there every day," Pate said.

The house that Dawkins was renting before the storms was on Columbus Street, one of the first areas in Cordova to be struck by the tornadoes.

Initially, she was working in the command center at the former Miles Pharmacy by day and sleeping there at night. Two weeks ago, a friend offered her a camper, which she set up behind the building.

Dawkins' son, Brett, is a member of the Cordova Fire Department. She has become an adopted member of the department.

Her duties have included giving directions, handling donations, acting as a secretary for fire officials and doing whatever else was needed.

Although Dawkins lost so much in the storm, she said that she has been more at ease giving assistance than receiving it since April 27.

"I didn't feel like I needed the help at the time. Everybody else needed me more than I needed help. I'm a mother, so I mother," Dawkins said.

Dawkins did not know that she was the recipient of the first Flipping for Families house until a volunteer brought her there under false pretenses.

Before receiving the keys, Dawkins said she felt that others in the community were worse off than her.

Still, she thanked Pate and others associated with the program profusely and seemed almost apologetic that she had not been one of the people who helped fix up the vacant home for a storm survivor.

"Every time I said that I was going to come over to help, something came up and I couldn't get away from downtown," Dawkins told Pate after walking through the house for the first time.

Pate said the program has grown to include 12 properties. Each will be restored using volunteer labor and will be given to a storm survivor to live in rent-free for one year.

After a year, the homeowners that agreed to participate in the program will be able to do as they wish with their properties.

Pate said volunteers from across the United States worked feverishly for weeks and into the early hours on Monday to get Dawkins' new home ready.

"At one time, I counted more than 40 people working here at once," Pate said.