Wilson County's Habitat for Humanity dedicated its 48th house Saturday and keys to it were presented to new owners, Faye and Leroy Donnell.
However, this dedication was different from all the others in that the dedication was made in honor of Jo Doris and JB Leftwich's 70th wedding anniversary, which was celebrated on July 12, 2009.
As a surprise to the Leftwichs, their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren had all gone together and raised the money for the construction of the Habitat house that was designated for the Donnells.
First United Methodist Church then provided over 100 volunteers and the 1,200 hours of volunteer labor that went into the project. The house was then turned over to the Donnells in honor of the Leftwichs.
"We knew nothing about the whole thing until after it happened," said Doris Leftwich. "It has been a complete surprise and such an honor, especially since the house is going to people like the Donnells, who have such a big, but close knit family."
Speaking in reference to their 70 years of marriage, JB quipped, "I've had many people ask how we survived all these years. I just tell them I do everything Doris tells me to do."
Faye Donnell comes from a family of 16 children, 13 girls and three boys. Five of her sisters were on hand for the dedication. Her husband, Leroy, is on dialysis and couldn't be there on Saturday for the ceremony, but is looking forward to moving into their new home.
An 18-year-old grandson will be occupying the modest three bedroom home to help care for Leroy and "I'm sure our multitude of other grandchildren will be visiting us from time to time, so I'm so glad we have a safe place for them to play finally," said Faye.
Leftwich is well-known on a wide basis for his many years of stories and columns in various publications. Through a 45-year span of time, he served Castle Heights as a teacher, administrator and trustee and was one of the most loved and respected faculty members the school ever had. A native of Buffalo Valley, Tenn., he and Doris met at Cumberland Law School and married over 70 years ago.
Leftwich served as a field reporter for the Nashville Tennessean for many years and has been a long-time writer for The Lebanon Democrat. Hundreds of his stories and columns have been published, but Leftwich deemed his years at Castle Heights as more than a teaching job: it was a loved and cherished way of life.
Donnell said she had signed up for a Habitat house in 2007, "but have been waiting my whole life for this moment," she said.
The light blue, vinyl-sided house is equipped with an efficient kitchen, living room and three bedrooms, bath and laundry room. The back deck is handicapped accessible and right up until dedication time, it was swarming with members of the Wilson County Master Gardener's Club as they sodded and landscaped the front yard, and seeded and laid straw in the back yard and planted shrubs.
"This is the 22nd Habitat house we've landscaped," said Master Gardner Richard Wright, who is also a cousin to Leftwich. "This one is a particular honor to me."
Tory Tredway, executive director of Habitat, opened the dedication ceremony by saying, "We are celebrating a new phase of life for Faye and Leroy Donnell, and it's all been possible because of so many people who volunteered their time and services."
Liz Reese, Habitat Board member and director of Brooks House who is now the next door neighbor of the Donnells, offered the blessing on all.
State Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet) was on hand, and the Democratic Women of Wilson County presented Donnell with a new microwave oven. Two new rockers for her porch were presented on behalf of Cracker Barrel. Board member Bob Black presented a new shovel to keep her new lawn and garden turning.
The pre-school group at Mt. Juliet Church of Christ gave a basket full of supplies. A photo album of the project's progress was presented as well. Greg Smith, president of Habitat, presented Donnell with a Bible and the keys to her new home.
Lots of prayers and speeches were made and finally it was Faye's turn to speak
"I thank God first and foremost and then everybody who had a hand in making this come true," she said "My family has been with me through everything I've been through and believe me, I've been through a lot. Therefore, I am so thankful and so happy for today.
"This house has been blessed because of all of you. If any of you need a meal, please know there will always be one here for you."
Habitat for Humanity still has about 100 on the waiting list for a new home. For more information on how you can help, visit their Web site at or call Tory at (615) 453-4539.