CHAPEL HILL -Ninety-three-year-old Velma Perry has lived in her Northside neighborhood home her entire life. In November, she fell and had to move to a costly rehab facility. Her family wanted to bring her home for Christmas, but couldn’t because her 132-year-old house was declared a safety hazard. That’s why the community has rallied behind Perry to repair her home.
Perry is a former Town Treasurer, a Northside historian, parishioner of St. Paul AME Church, and beloved member of the tight-knit community.
Due to the efforts of Habitat for Humanity of Orange County’s program, A Brush With Kindness, repairs have begun on Perry’s house to replace damaged siding, repair the back door, build a new deck, and add handrails to the rear exit of her home.
“I think it is wonderful because it’s a great help because she wants to come home, and we want her to come home,” said Janie Alston, Perry’s cousin.
The fire marshal declared it a safety hazard due to damage on back of the house, which left only one safe entrance/exit.
Adwoa Asare, who is the Community Development Manager for Habitat, explained that A Brush With Kindness serves local families by providing affordable exterior home repairs. The program began in 2010 as a way to help beautify local neighborhoods but quickly turned into a means to provide accessibility and safety modifications.
“This is sort of a Christmas miracle because we were getting ready to stop repairs after Thanksgiving,” Asare said.
She added,”We decided to wrap it up and then close down for the year. And then we found out that someone who is loved and cherished by the community had fallen and couldn’t move back into her house until these repairs were completed. Our staff sat around at our meeting and said, ‘We’ve got to do this. We’ve got to do this.”
Alston, who lives just down the road from Perry, recently had her home updated through A Brush With Kindness. She thanked her church, Saint Paul AME Church, for making contributions to the effort as well.
“You want your place to look nice. It is amazing that the volunteers that come out. You see the enthusiasm in them that they want to help you. You appreciate their help, and everybody is doing such a wonderful job.”
To do each take on each home repair project, $5,000 must be raised.
“We had Saint Paul AME Church and Chapel of the Cross Episcopal Church raise money because Mrs. Velma Perry is very important to them,” Asare said. “We’ve raised about half of the money so far.”
Asare said the money contributed was enough to get the house fixed up so that Perry could return home by Christmas, but said that more is needed to finish all of the planned repairs. “So being able to give back and help her is just incredible,” Asare said. “On her own, she wouldn’t ask for help. She has just done so much for others over the years.”
Friday and Saturday, A Brush With Kindness volunteers are working to make the repairs to Perry’s house.
One of the workers is Former Chapel Hill Chief of Police Brian Curran. He said he has had a long-time friendship with Perry.
“When I found out that she wasn’t home right now and was over at a rehab facility, it just kind of added some urgency to trying to get her home and doing what we could to make that happen,” Curran said.