As she drove to see the new home of her friend and former colleague Pensola Parsons, Sandra Morris said the address seemed oddly familiar. When she got to the newly refurbished home, Morris realized her in-laws had lived there more than 40 years ago on the edge of Harrisburg.
“This was meant to be,” Morris said, as she waited to bless the home for Parsons. “This has got to be a God thing.”
As she stood on the long front porch of her new home, Parsons could look out on more than 40 people, many of whom helped her along the way from addict to co-worker to new hope for revitalization in her neighborhood.
“God handpicked each and every one of you in our community, in my community, to bring me out of a dark place,” she said.
Front and center at the edge of Parson’s new white picket fence was Rose Harris, who took a chance on Parsons at Three Springs rehabilitation center and gave her a job in the kitchen. When she hears how far Parsons has gone since then, “it doesn’t surprise me at all,” Harris said. Morris, who worked as a nurse at the same facility, said “I always knew. I used to tell her she had such promise.”
There are others gathered there, from Goodwill Industries that helped get her started to some of her current co-workers at Bridgestone.
“Thank you so much for giving me a chance despite what I wrote on my application, which I was being honest about” the past, Parsons said to the Bridgestone people, drawing a laugh from the crowd.
Her new home is through the Turn Back the Block program, which aims to rebuild Harrisburg through homeownership by rehabbing old mill housing with volunteers and homeowners like Parsons with a steady job who contribute at least 150 hours of sweat equity.
“This is an exciting moment in the life of one woman and the changing face of Harrisburg,” said Anne Catherine Murray, president of the program’s Board of Trustees.
Parsons thanked the program for picking her to be part of that revitalization.
“They are rebuilding and building up people in this community,” she said.
It goes beyond her and the new home, Parson said.
“You all have taught me not to look with my human eyes but look through my spiritual eyes,” she said. “When I look in this community, I see beauty. You all taught me to see the God in people. I’m seeing God where he has built every single thing that surrounds me. I promise you I will be a good neighbor by watching out for my neighborhood.”
Not far from the home are historic textile mills that the City of Augusta is looking to potentially develop as campuses for Georgia Regents University.
“I believe that Harrisburg is truly entering a Renaissance period,” said Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver, a mills campus proponent, “I’m just happy to be part of it in any way possible.”
In the end, Parsons got to invite everyone into her new home.
“It’s not the biggest,” she said. “It’s not in this luxurious neighborhood, but it will be. I’m proud to stay here.”