Elderly Hawkins County woman close to moving into donated home

Jeff Bobo • Mar 1, 2009 at 12:00 AM

ROGERSVILLE — Despite bad weather which has hampered work, there’s a newly rebuilt mobile home sitting on 84-year-old Virgie Bowlin’s property that she will hopefully be able to move into within the month.

Bowlin, a widow since 1969, has been living in terrible conditions in Hawkins County with no running water and no bathroom.

She has an outhouse, but it doesn’t even have a door.

In December the Times-News published an article about Bowlin’s living conditions and the efforts of Of One Accord Ministries in Rogersville to find her a new home.

Within a week, Of One Accord had received donations of a newly rebuilt mobile home including labor to move and situate it on her property, as well as approximately $20,000.

Acquiring the donations turned out to be the easy part. The hard part was finding a couple of days in a row where the weather would allow a septic tank to be installed and for the mobile home to be moved from Abingdon, Va., to a lot beside Bowlin’s house on Byrd Lane in north central Hawkins County near the Hancock County line.

A little over a week ago on Feb. 20-21 the mobile home was moved and set in place. There are still a few more details to be completed before she can move in, but Of One Accord Ministries Director Sheldon Livesay said it shouldn’t take more than a month.

“We lack hooking the water up, hooking the electric up, which will be done around the first of the week, and then we’ll put the skirt around it,” Livesay said. “Then we’ll have somebody come back and landscape it and put the decks on the front and the back with a ramp so she can get up without climbing steps. The last thing will be putting her furniture in and putting her in.”

The Times-News traveled with Livesay to visit Bowlin Sunday afternoon. Her daughter Renie Maness, who lives in Rogersville, was there as well helping her mother maintain her current home.

Bowlin said she’s had a cold and has been weak and hasn’t had a chance to see the inside of her new mobile home yet. She said she saw it from the outside quite a bit, however, as the movers passed back and forth in front of her window backing it into place. She said, “I think it’s pretty.”

Although the moving and septic were donated, there were some expenses that are being covered from the money donated. Livesay said they’ll also buy furniture and appliances from that money. What’s left over will be placed into a trust held by Of One Accord that will be used to pay her electric bills for the rest of her life.

Bowlin came to the attention of Of One Accord in November after her daughter requested that Bowlin be placed on the list of homes that receive free repairs through a program organized by the ministry. The staff member who evaluated Bowlin’s house observed that it was too far gone to be repaired.

“In our 20 years doing this program it was probably among the worst five that we’ve seen,” Livesay said. “She doesn’t have a bathroom, doesn’t have water, she has cardboard for her ceilings, and the walls were literally being held up with wallpaper, and that’s shredding and coming apart. It’s a terrible situation, and we knew we had to do something about it.

“We got some of the area churches that said they could do the work, but there’s just not resources to do that with.”

That’s when Livesay contacted the Times-News seeking to make the community aware of Bowlin’s situation. Livesay described Bowlin’s living conditions as Appalachia at its worst, but he also described the community reaction as Appalachia at its best.

“The morning that article came out we started getting phone calls at 6:30 in the morning and for three days we didn’t put the phone down,” he said.

The major contributors to this cause asked to remain anonymous to the public. But they won’t have to remain anonymous to Bowlin.

As soon as she has been moved in there will be a reception held at her new residence where everyone who made a donation can meet her in person and see the end result.

“I’m glad for all you’ins — what everybody has done, because I couldn’t do nothing,” Bowlin said Sunday.

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