Thursday, September 3, 2009

Darren Kelley: Project General Manager

by Lise Greene

A little boy and his seven siblings grew up on a sharecropper’s farm in Riverview, Alabama. Their father, a textile worker, was poor in dollars but rich in character. The family thrived in the four-room house despite the lack of amenities such as indoor plumbing. And the boy, Darren Kelley, learned from his parents that self-esteem does not preclude accepting help. When Santa arrived one Christmas in a truck, the Kelleys received food and gifts with gratitude. Darren still remembers his new coat and shoes.

Now it’s Darren’s turn to give – to the people of the Chattahoochee Valley. A resident of West Point, Georgia, Darren was already active on the City Council (Mayor Pro Tem and chair of two committees) and in his church. He was also a Habitat for Humanity volunteer and member of the board. When he retired in 2006 from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Lynda Spofford approached him about local housing needs.

“I saw the need right here,” said Darren. “People felt trapped and hopeless, and my heart was bleeding for them.”

Twenty-three new homes and 11 rehabs later, all the Chattahoochee homeowners know Darren, the project's General Manager, and call him when something goes wrong – and it does. “This work is a teaching and training opportunity for both homeowners and volunteers.”

Darren’s professional expertise is in “the foundation and below” – water, sewer, and sediment control. He learned above-ground construction from experienced volunteers like AJ Jewell, Keith Schuler, and Barry Stuck.

Darren graduated from the University of Alabama and met Donna on a blind date. They love spending time with their family – two sons, their wives, and three granddaughters.

“I’m a little bit of Millard Fuller, my father, my family, and everyone else in my life,” said Darren. “I’ve tried to take the best from them and blend it into myself.”

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