The community is helping build the home of a 96-year-old Houston woman

The effects of time and exposure to the elements have caused significant damage to Ruby Terrell’s home.

HOUSTON — Community leaders, volunteers and businesses are coming together to make a complete renovation of a retirement home in southeast Houston for free.

“I’m just over the moon,” said Ruby Terrell, 86, who lives at home with her grandchildren.

Terrell has lived in the house on Gibbons Street in Smith Addition since 1969, when she and her husband bought it. Mr. Terrell, a World War II veteran, died in the mid-1980s, but Mrs. Terrell continued to live there.

The effects of time and weather have meant the house has developed significant delayed maintenance.

“There was nothing I could do,” said Terrell, who walks with a cane and has a steady income.

In the fall of 2021, Ruby’s son Sam was working with Janice Carter, who grew up in this close-knit community and is working with the local civic association to repair the home.

When Sam died in December, Carter didn’t give up.

“We felt like we had to come in here and help her,” Carter said.

Carter turned to City Councilman Robert Gallegos. He represents the area covered by Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Complete Communities program.

“These are neighborhoods that have been neglected for decades,” Gallegos said. “We can make some improvements, and this is an example of what Complete Communities is all about.”

Gallegos’ office brought on the nonprofit Tejano Center for Community Concerns, which leveraged grants and coordinated contractors.

“The outpouring was just incredible,” said Richard Rodriguez, housing director for the Tejano Center for Community Concerns. “These guys couldn’t wait to help and then it made it easier for other organizations to join. Lowe’s donated all the equipment. Dominion Air donated a central air system. This house has never had a central air system.”

Rodriguez says crews have taken the home to the studs due to the extent of the damage and are “literally building a brand new home” with new electrical, plumbing, flooring, a bathroom and kitchen, valued at about $35,000.

Once work began, the Tejano Center covered the cost of moving Terrell to a hotel and storing her belongings in a storage unit.

Meanwhile, Carter has heard from other neighbors who are looking for help.

“This is their home and we want them to stay here,” Carter said. “We want to help them in any way we can.

She and others hope Terrell’s home renovation can be the first step in preserving a neighborhood.

“I’m so pleased and so grateful,” Terrell said.

The house should be ready by the end of April. City volunteers and employees hope Mayor Turner and Complete Communities Director Shannon Buggs can be there when Terrell first steps into her new home.

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