Mike Christen | The Daily Herald | Original Article
Columbia’s First Farmers & Merchants Bank has dedicated its support for Build & Learn Inc., a local nonprofit organization, offering housing support to residents in need.
On March 17, First Farmers Executive Vice President of Branch Operations Paul Butts, Jr. presented a $2,000 donation to Quinton Jones, founder of Build & Learn Inc.
The contribution will bolster the organization’s future projects as it aims to help those out of work learn employable skills in home building and renovation, while offering repair work to those in need at no charge.
“It is a pleasure to partner with Build & Learn,” Butts said. “First Farmers is a community bank that has been serving our local customers since 1909, and I’m proud to have the opportunity to support an organization that shares our mission to enrich our communities.”
Build & Learn, Inc. assists eligible populations, such as veterans, in maintaining affordable housing and learning skills to refurbish and rehabilitate homes.
“First Farmers has been a supporter for several years now,” Jones told The Daily Herald. “It helps a lot. It enables us to move forward and keep the organization going. They are helping us move closer to that goal.”
Jones said the bank’s most recent contribution will be used to make repairs to Maury County homes damaged by recent storms that tore through the region with severe winds and heavy rains, lead to the worst flooding experienced in a decade in southern Middle Tennessee.
In the days following the storms, Jones and Build & Learn helped to repair the damaged roof of a local home and will soon repair a set of stairs almost entirely washed away due to the flooding.
“It is helping us to build up the capacity to help others,” Jones said. “We can do more advanced jobs with the equipment we have been able to purchase and more advanced tasks and teach more people.”
Founded in 2008 by Jones, a former librarian, the initiative has completed more than 40 projects in Maury County carried out by 18 program participants.
“The vast majority of our students have gone off to take on jobs,” Jones said.
The program received another boost of support in October 2020 when supporters gave the program a truck, fully-equipped with tools and supplies fit for repair and construction work.
Last summer, as Columbia experienced a major increase in unemployment due to COVID-19, student Chris Head was taught by local contractor Bubba Moss the skills of renovating a bathroom in the home of Charles E. Baxter on Columbia’s Eastland Drive.
Other projects have included building a ramp for a disabled Columbia resident, Ret. Command Sgt. Major William ‘Skip’ Bottoms, 40-year veteran of the National Guard who was diagnosed with ALS in 2016.
The ramp, completed in 2018, gave Bottoms greater mobility and independence, allowing him to easily leave is Columbia home without assistance.
The following year, Build & Learn completed a similar project for Thompson’s Station resident Dale Grissom, a 66-year-old veteran of the U.S. Navy who served in the Vietnam War.
In a request made to the organization by the Maury County Veterans Services Office, Grissom, who is disabled and relies on oxygen tanks, was unable to independently leave his home in his wheelchair and was previously confined to his home without assistance.
With Tennessee as home to more than 500,000 veterans with about 7,100 of those veterans living in Maury County, Build & Learn has much more work to do for the region’s retired service men and women.
He said the organization relies on the support of community partners to fund each project, so the organization is continually seeking support to make sure the next project can reach fruition.
“We are trying to do as much as we can with what is given to us to make sure we help as many as we can,” Jones said.
To contact Build & Learn visit https://buildlearn.org/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org.