Breast-cancer survivor gets help from Habitat, school district

By Tammy Keith Originally Published March 7, 2013 at 11:07 a.m.
Updated March 7, 2013 at 11:07 a.m.
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Eilish Palmer

Shannon Branscum and her children, Alison, 6, and Steven, 4, sit on the porch of their home in Twin Groves. Members of the Future Business Leaders of America at Guy-Perkins High School have taken the lead on a project with Habitat for Humanity of Faulkner County to rehabilitate a mobile home for the Branscums. The family also includes Shannon’s husband, Jeremaiah.

Shannon Branscum of Twin Groves said she is aware that her living conditions are far from ideal, and she’s working to get out of poverty.

“It takes steps to get out of something,” Branscum said.

She’s not doing it alone — the Guy-Perkins School District, the community and Habitat for Humanity of Faulkner County are helping.

One thing they did was gather volunteers to clean up her yard.

“That was just a real blessing,” Branscum said.

Branscum, 41, a breast-cancer survivor, lives on family land in Twin Groves in a house that she bluntly referred to as “a rundown dump.”

The Guy-Perkins High School Future Business Leaders of America has taken the lead on the project.

Members sold two-by-fours and raised $1,800 to purchase a used mobile home, which Habitat for Humanity of Faulkner County will help rehabilitate for Branscum.

The house she’s in has sentimental value — her father and grandfather built it.

Branscum and her husband, Jeremaiah, have two children, 6-year-old Alison and 4-year-old Steven.

“We didn’t realize we were so caught up in poverty — not having this, not having that,” she said.

“When you’re poor and you’re going through things, it’s just hard. It’s difficult, and you turn against each other instead of helping each other.”

She said each of them blamed the other

for their situation, but now they are working

together for a fresh start.

Branscum, who graduated from Pulaski Technical College in North Little Rock, said she works full time at a big-box store, where she said she makes $350 every two weeks, and her husband just took a job at a fast-food restaurant.

“That’s not going to move me into a gingerbread house in the suburbs somewhere,” Branscum said. “[However], I love it so much,” she said of her job.

What happened with the home she is in, Branscum said, was that she moved

from there into her grandparents’ house in

North Little Rock when they died.

The house in Twin Groves sat vacant before she moved back into it in 2009.

“It just went downhill, you know, and there was nothing anybody could have done to help it,” she said.

“It’s built on concrete blocks, not a slab, and it’s on the side of a hill.”

She ended up with her grandparents’ belongings and hers on the family property.

Before long, she said, it was overwhelming.

Daily living was a struggle.

“When we first moved in there, there was no water. I was carrying 5-gallon buckets of water to my house,” she said. Branscum’s mother, a widow, lives across the road.

“You feel like you’re some pioneer woman from some other century. When we got water, I was like, ‘Oh, thank you, Lord, thank you; we have water. Thank you; we have water,’” she said, laughing.

She said her faith has kept her going, too.

“The more storms you have to go through, the easier it is to make it through, especially if you know God is there for you,” she said.

Her situation came to light when interim Superintendent Brian Cossey brought Branscum’s daughter home after the little girl didn’t get on the bus.

“When he came up to the door, he saw how bad it was,” Branscum said.

“Instead of being judgmental, he went to the counselor and said, ‘We need to see if we can help this family.’”

As Cossey puts it, “We saw a need.”

He consulted elementary school counselor Denise Warren.

“[We] put our heads together,” he said.

Cossey said a cleanup was held one Saturday a few months ago. About 60 volunteers participated, including community members, church groups, and students from Guy-Perkins and Hendrix College.

“It’s a great project for us,” Cossey said. “I was really, really impressed by the amount of kids who showed up and the work they did. It was a great day.

“We basically picked up her entire yard. We had some ladies working inside helping clean up as we were cleaning outside.”

Branscum said the outpouring of help brought her to tears.

“It was such a blessing to be free and not have that worry about what people thought of you and let them help you,” she said.

“Once you let somebody in and you let go of that pride, it’s good.”

Cossey said scrap metal in the yard was taken to sell.

“We also took several loads to the auction, and she made some cash money for that,” Cossey said.

He said handymen, including certified electricians and plumbers, have volunteered to help Branscum.

Branscum said that a month after the school became aware of her situation, her daughter’s teacher and teacher’s husband weatherproofed her house.

“That helped so much,” she said.

Branscum said one of the first people to help her was Tim Milton of Conway, who repaired a leaking chimney “out of the kindness of his heart.”

She said Milton has since died.

Branscum said she wanted to give up at times, “but when the kids got behind us, you don’t want to give up when they have so much hope.”

The high school FBLA’s spring service project was Buy a Board — Build a Home.

Boards were sold for $5, or $10 if people wanted to sign them.

Habitat for Humanity of Faulkner County will use those boards in another

person’s home.

Shenel Sandidge, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Faulkner County, said the FBLA raised $1,800.

The used mobile home cost $1,500, she said, and the extra $300 will be used to buy materials for the Branscums.

“We will provide some of the materials we have in storage, like carpet, tile and vanities and range hoods, stuff like that,” Sandidge said.

She said the Sigma Nu fraternity at the University of Central Arkansas will help refurbish the mobile home.

“I’m looking to be done with it at the end of March,” she said.

It will be rehabilitated in a mobile-home park in Conway, then moved to Branscum’s property, Sandidge said.

Branscum said she is appreciative and touched by the actions of the volunteers.

“I see so many people in the world, and they think they’re alone, and they’re not,” Branscum said.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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