Updated: 11:59 a.m. Tuesday, May 20, 2014 | Posted: 4:10 p.m. Monday, May 19, 2014

Church members shocked by new home

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Church members shocked by new home photo
Tonya Dokas and her son, Anthony Barrett, members of Berachah Baptist Church, received a home on Woodlawn Avenue Sunday night after more than 150 volunteers spent four days remodeling the house. The mother and son were surprised to be given the home that was donated to the Middletown church by Habitat for Humanity.

By Rick McCrabb

Staff Writer


When the Middletown fire truck slowly pulled away, Tonya Dokas and her son, Anthony Barrett, and the other 150 volunteers expected to see the new owners of the extreme makeover home standing on Woodlawn Avenue.

But the street was empty.

Because the names of the owners are kept a secret by the pastors at Berachah Baptist Church, Tonya and Anthony were brought to tears when told they were the recipients of the home, a gift from the church. From Thursday morning until Sunday night — much like the other volunteers — Dokas and her 19-year-old son spent hours remodeling the interior of the home, spreading mulch, planting flowers and trees outside, all without knowing the owners.

Surrounded by fellow church members during the unveiling Sunday night, they learned the house was their home.

“We are in shock,” Tonya Dokas said while standing in the back yard, her face tear stained.

“I about passed out,” her son added.

After the Rev. Lamar Ferrell, lead pastor of the church, announced the names of the owners, several members said they were “the best choice possible” because they volunteer at every church event, and are the first to arrive, and the last to leave.

The single mother and her son moved back home with her parents two years ago when her mother, Mary Dokas, became ill, and stayed in the home after she died last October. Dokas had lost her factory job, and was looking to move out of her father’s home.

Then she received keys to her home.

“It’s all because of God’s work,” Dokas said.

Several months ago, Ed Lee, president of Cincinnati Chapter of Habitat for Humanity, contacted Middletown city officials and told them there was no one available to live in the home that was built in 1995 but had been vacant for years. He was told about the Hands and Feet Mission work performed at Berachah.

Lee said: “We got our mission done, but in a different way.”

On Sunday night, he handed Ferrell a box with house keys, and a few minutes later, during an emotional ceremony, he presented them to Dokas and her son.

“There is nothing greater than giving, nothing greater than serving,” Ferrell told them and the crowd. “Welcome home Tonya and Anthony, welcome home.”

They buried their faces on the shoulders of Ferrell and the Rev. Clark Helvey, pastor of missions and outreach at the church.

Helvey said he remembers the first time he saw the dilapidated home in the 1300 block of Woodlawn.

“There was no hope there,” Helvey said as he packed tools back into his truck. “Now it has hope, a future…” He fought back tears as he talked.

For four days, more than 150 volunteers, mostly Berachah members, spent 1,840 man hours completely renovating the home. Helvey said everything but the windows were replaced. There are other Habitat for Humanity houses on the street, and neighbors said there is a problem with drugs and crime.

Helvey said the home will be “the pearl of the block.”

Mary Allen, who lives two homes away, called the remodeled home “a blessing from God.”

Volunteer Joel Curry, of Franklin, was drenched with sweat as he stood near his truck eating a cupcake. He said it was interesting renovating a home without knowing who would live there.

“This was about planting a seed, one seed at a time,” he said.

Wayne Gallagher, owner of Gallagher Home Improvement, volunteered about 40 hours over the four days, even though he’s not a member of Berachah.

“There is a lot of love,” said Gallagher, who thanked the volunteers for “doing God’s work, what we are all called to do.”


10: The domestic projects performed by Berachah Baptist Church

150: Volunteers who worked all or part of four days

$1,500: Money donated from Middletown police and fire department unions

1,840: Volunteer man hours

$5,000: Grant money from Middletown Community Foundation

$40,000: Value of materials and labor

Source: Berachah Baptist Church

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