Williams said the Division of Family and Children Services inspected her trailer off Upper Bethany Road and decided the dozens of volunteers who had pitched in to repair the aged single-wide had succeeded in making it a more suitable home for her children, Austin, a 12-year-old with Down syndrome, and Ashley, 14.
“I feel like 100 pounds has been lifted off my shoulders,” the mother said after a DFCS worker finished looking over the trailer, previously dilapidated with a rusting roof, broken windows and uneven floors and walls. “He closed my case. He said everything looked wonderful and keep up the good work. He said I was a wonderful mom and I just had to get my stuff together.”
After the DFCS worker left, the true payoff from all the labor came: Austin and Ashley got to come home.
Austin, who is also deaf and mute in addition to having Down syndrome, was ecstatic as he ran from room to room in the vastly changed house, Williams said. The boy hadn’t been inside the home in weeks, after DFCS told his mother the home was in too poor condition and he and Ashley went to stay with their grandmother in Cumming.
In a video taken by a volunteer, Austin can be seen with a stunned look on his face, frozen inside the front door. The expression quickly turned to a wide smile as he gazed around the living room and started to flail his hands in excitement. Then, he went around from person to person — family members, friends, complete strangers — and hugged almost all of them. Just days before, Austin had been so desperate to come home and be with his mother that he kept saying “Mom” in sign language, Williams said.
Ashley almost burst into tears as she searched through the house, which has been outfitted with a hot-pink bedroom for her.
The girl’s tears wouldn’t have been the first in the house in recent weeks. Volunteers have spoken of the emotionally charged scenes that played out repeatedly as the mother, friends and family members watched thankfully while the support from volunteers — mostly strangers — local businesses and churches continued to grow.
The volunteers sympathized with Williams’ story. She is 36 years old, was widowed in 2006, and said she was doing the best she could with low wages from a part-time job and had few prospects for greener employment pastures.
But the good Samaritans had their work cut out for them.
They began coming to the house in early April and found years of thrifty repairs to the trailer’s roof, walls and floors and botched renovations. A wealth of discarded clutter of all kinds — tires, toys, old shoes — was littered throughout the yard, because, Williams said, she couldn’t afford to have hauled off. Busted out windows were covered with blankets, because Williams said she couldn’t afford to get them replaced.
“It seems like we have overcome the impossible,” said Williams’ longtime friend, Brandy Godfrey, who helped organize the efforts, along with Canton resident Amanda Beckmann and others. “I was amazed when the DFCS worker came out. He couldn’t believe it. The entire house is totally remodeled. It has been remodeled from the sub-flooring to the walls. The only thing that we have kept in the house was a bathtub ...”
The trash in the yard had also been hauled away and the entire property looked completely different.
Before the outpouring of support, Godfrey says, Williams had been doing her best with a bad situation, but the mother didn’t believe in asking for the help she so desperately needed.
“It’s not that Kim was a bad mother. It’s not that Kim didn’t try,” the friend said Friday. “She never asked for help. She’s not one to ask for help. She’s not one to live off the government. I think that now she’s going to see that there are people who will help you.”
Williams said the experience has been “most definitely” life changing and she’s committed to keep moving in a positive direction.
“The future looks amazing,” she said. “I want to thank everyone who volunteered, everyone who donated money ... I want to thank them all.”
And with such a stunning and vast community effort, Williams’ friend said the mother isn’t likely the only one touched by the experience.
“It’s been an amazing journey,” Godfrey said. “It has been a blessing to work together. Strangers we don’t even know have treated us all like family. I can’t believe that it’s all done and over with.”