This week the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship kicks off its seventh annual Extreme Build, a 10-day project to build a home that an eastern Kentucky family otherwise could not afford.

By Bob Allen

What can 120 volunteers do in about 10 days? For one thing they can build a house for a low-income family in rural Kentucky.

This weekend volunteers from 20 churches across the Bluegrass State will descend on Pine Knot, Ky., a sparsely populated mountain community near the Tennessee border, for the seventh annual Extreme Build mission project sponsored by the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship.

This year’s beneficiaries are Charles and Mary Ann Brown, McCreary County residents who have been married four nearly 30 years and have four children. Mary Ann is a full-time caregiver for her husband, who suffers from various serious health issues, including a breathing problem that is exacerbated by the wood-burning heater in their home.

They now live in a 41-year-old double-wide mobile home that originally served as a restaurant. Over the years the home has fallen into disrepair, with leaks in the roof, several weak spots in the floor and substandard kitchen and bath facilities.

On Saturday, June 16, they will be handed keys to their new home, thanks to Kentucky Baptist volunteers who began arriving Wednesday to lay the deck and prepare the house for the raising of the roof on Saturday. On Thursday the pre-build crew installed a pre-manufactured kitchen/utility/bathroom unit constructed by Kentucky Highland’s Investment Corporation and the majority of exterior walls.

The official building phase starts Saturday, June 9, and continues throughout the week, culminating in a dedication ceremony the next Saturday.

Begun in 2006, Extreme Build is a part of the rural poverty initiative known as Mountain Hope, which seeks to improve the quality of housing in McCreary County one family at a time.

For the past six summers, more than 125 volunteers from across Kentucky and other states, including Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Tennessee and Texas, have given their time, money and energy to build a house for a family in McCreary County.

Located in southeastern Kentucky at the south end of the Daniel Boone National Forest, scenic McCreary County was founded as the 120th, and last, county in Kentucky in 1912. Named for then Gov. James B McCreary, through its 100-year history the county’s economy has relied heavily on coal and timber industries.

The last coal mine operating in the county closed in 1994, and its rebound isn’t likely. The local coal is high in sulfur, and drainage from mines would jeopardize tourism by threatening a number of recreational and scenic waterways.

Unemployment in the county is 15 percent, six points higher than the national average, and household income is less than half the national average.

Extreme Build homes are applied for and received at affordable rates by residents of McCreary County who otherwise could not qualify for a house. Recipients are required to attend home ownership classes as well as correct any past credit issues. Funding for the home is comprised of USDA loans, grants, donated funds, donated labor and gifts in kind. The recipient is not required to pay a down payment, but they must buy a prepaid homeowners policy before the build begins.

Extreme Build is a joint partnership between McCreary County Community Housing Development Corporation, Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, Federation of Appalachian Housing Enterprises, USDA Rural Development, Together for Hope, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Kentucky Baptist Fellowship.

“Charles and Mary Ann are excited to meet the many people from across Kentucky who will come together to help them build their new home,” said Joshua Speight, associate coordinator for missions at the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship and director of Mountain Hope.

Extreme Build is not only the signature event for the statewide partner of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, but a model of how the KBE approaches its work. “KBF believes in partnerships,” the group says in its website. “Extreme Build could not happen unless numerous organizations, both religious and secular, partnered together to construct this affordable-housing home.”

Beyond the “miracle” of seeing a house emerge in 10 days, the KBF describes Extreme Build as “a miracle of friendships” forged by working side-by-side. A previous home recipient put it this way: “I thought I was getting a new house, and now I have 150 new friends.”