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Volunteers offer family ‘brush with kindness’

David, Dawn and baby Autumn Maxwell received help through Unicoi County Habitat for Humanity with finishing a home improvement project, which will make their home more efficient and safe for their daughter who was born with a genetic disease called Zellweger Syndrome.
The additions to the home include a door in Autumn’s room, a ramp attached to the house and a walking trail along the driveway. The projects were made possible by a family member who contacted Habitat for Humanity, Dawn said.
Habitat for Humanity President Gloria Mouton said the overall project began with the walking trail beside the driveway.
The trail was made possible through “A Brush with Kindness,” which is a volunteer program within Habitat for Humanity.
“The project is part of our repair grants program,” Mouton said. “Volunteers have been working for several weekends because it is a very challenging location. There was an issue with safety for the baby with carrying all of the equipment.”
The weekend of Nov. 3, Mouton said holes were created to insert the poles of the ramp. By the end of the day on Nov. 10, the entire ramp had been built.
In coming weeks, Mouton said the addition of a door in Autumn’s room that connects to the ramp will be installed as well.
David said the renovations were necessary for their daughter’s health and safety. He said the terrain of the property was not conducive to Autumn’s needs.
“To get her to the hospital or the doctor we had to carry her all the way down the hill,” David said. “It’s so steep and the driveway is so long. I had to carry her in one arm and an oxygen tank in the other. Dawn was right behind me carrying her vent.”
Dawn said that the majority of her emotions were in regard to the benefits her daughter will receive from the renovations.
“It’s going to be safer for her having a door in her room incase of a fire,” Dawn said. “It’s going to be easier going up and down the driveway. We won’t fall like I have before.”
Dawn said there is an additional benefit to having the easy access door and ramp outside of Autumn’s room.
“She can go out on her little deck and look out at the mountains,” Dawn said. “She can’t go far, but she’ll be able to go outside and be able to touch the snow.”
Dawn said the program has aided them in providing something special for their daughter.
“They really care and I think it’s great they help people,” Dawn said. “Hopefully we can help them in return. I think it’s great.”
The Maxwells agreed it was wonderful to see members of the community – some they knew and some they didn’t – come out in support of their daughter’s health.
“I think it’s great to see people coming together and helping each other out,” David said. “We don’t ever have much time to do anything. Autumn is finally going to have a safe way in and out of the house. It’s great.”
Dawn said she feels the support of the community not only through Habitat for Humanity.
“I think a lot of people are praying for her and it’s one of the things that has gotten her this far,” Dawn said. “She is a fighter. She has fought from the day she was born.”

By Kayla Carter
Staff Writer
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