Katy Build adds homes to neighborhood in memory of teen

Charles Brown is very quick to say that he is a proud homeowner.

His home on Nina Street in Bossier City is one of two built within the last two years thanks to the Fuller Center for Housing of Northwest Louisiana, Asbury United Methodist Church in Bossier City and numerous community donors. Charles and his wife, Vernita, recently welcomed new neighbors to “Katy’s Corner,” Lonnie and Rosalyn Carmack.

Their homes sit on “Katy’s Corner,” the growing legacy of Bossier City teen Katy Watkins, who was killed in a car accident in October 2006.

“She’s the nicest person I’ve never met,” Charles said, looking at the photo of the young girl on the living room wall.

Angela Pfanner, Program Director for Asbury UMC, said the 16-year-old’s humble presence and servant heart is something the church wanted to carry on after her passing. That’s when she contacted Lee Jeter, Executive Director of the Fuller Center, in 2011 with a goal in mind – to construct a home in Bossier that would honor and memorialize the life of the young church member.

Little did they know that God was weaving all of their paths together in a way that no one imagined.

Around the time of Katy’s accident, the Browns were homeless and struggling to find light in a dark period of time.

“Life began a downward spiral,” Charles said. “I thought to myself, we can’t live like this.”

That’s what started their road to recovery. They set goals for themselves, one of which was to be homeowners.

Charles applied twice with the Fuller Center, whose goal is to build affordable new homes for low-income individuals who currently do not have adequate housing and are unable to obtain adequate financing through other conventional means. His application was approved the second time.

The next step was finding a sponsor. For the Browns, that was Asbury UMC.

However, Pfanner said making a connection with the Browns was an even bigger blessing for the church.

“It was healing for us,” she said. “It gave the church a sense of fulfillment. A lot of big things came from this and God’s work is all in the details.”

Volunteers from the Fuller Center, Asbury and the community were able to construct the Browns three bedroom, one and a half bath home from the ground up in just 64 days. The Carmack home, however, was completed in 44 days.

Jeter said he is frequently contacted with ideas for projects, but something about Katy Build stood out.

“You don’t know whether they are true or not. People call us all the time with ideas and visions of doing something, but it never produces anything,” he said. “When I got that phone call, I took it like I do the rest of them. At that time, I wasn’t excited. I didn’t get excited until we started raising money and that’s when I realized the vision was becoming reality.”

More than $110,000 was raised to construct both homes, not including in-kind donations and sponsors. Pfanner said she’s blown away by the amount of community support.

“People are still inspired to do good things in her name,” she said. “I don’t think Katy would even believe it.”

Aside from the donation, Jeter said he is impressed by Asbury’s volunteer presence.

“When you have a partner like Asbury, you know they are 100-percent behind a project,” he said.

Charles said God stepped in and really turned his entire world around, starting with Katy Build house number one. Since moving into his home in August 2012, Charles has opened his own cleaning business – At Your Service complete cleaning service – with a friend and fellow veteran.

The only way Charles could describe the feeling was that the home provides security.

“Coming from a point where you didn’t know where you were going to spend your next night to putting the key in the door of my own house is an amazing feeling,” he said. “I still sit back and think I’m going to wake up. I see my quality of life changing every day. With the power of God, I’m unstoppable.”

Pfanner said Asbury UMC will continue paying it forward in Katy’s name. Jeter added that they would like to build more houses in Bossier.

“We want to try to raise these communities up, build homes for individuals that are at or below the poverty level and really transform the community through home ownership,” Jeter said. “We’re excited about what the future holds for Bossier and all of our partnered projects. It’s a blessing to be able to provide this service and partner with area churches to make what many people consider a dream become reality.”