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Last updated November 24.

Dec. 11, 2006 issue

TV makeover benefits church

By Robert Rhodes Mennonite Weekly Review

RALEIGH, N.C. — Raleigh Mennonite Church got a refurbished meeting place this month thanks to the Extreme Make­over: Home Edition television show, which replaced the home of a family of five just across the street.

The popular ABC-TV program, in which hundreds of volunteers raze and then rebuild the homes of deserving people, came to Raleigh Nov. 30-Dec. 7 to replace the home of William and Linda Riggins.

While they were in town, the show’s producers also decided to do some renovations on the home of Building Together Ministries, a neighborhood outreach that Linda Riggins oversees in a former elementary school building. The building also houses a charter school for at-risk children and Raleigh Mennonite Church, which worships in the school auditorium.

Building Together Ministries, which offers tutoring, GED classes, summer camp and life-skills instruction for single mothers and other local residents, was founded in 1989 by former contractor Freddy Johnson and his wife, Helen, who are now members of Raleigh Mennonite.

When the Johnsons first moved there, the neighborhood was “the biggest, baddest, most drug-infested neighborhood in Raleigh,” according to church pastor Duane Beck.

When the 50-member Virginia Conference congregation later arrived, “Building Together Ministries became the avenue through which the church developed a neighborhood ministry,” Beck said.

When Linda Riggins took over Building Together, the relationship with the church continued.

The run-down, 70-year-old house across the street was where Riggins, her husband, William, and their three children — William Jr., 6, Christa Marie, 4, and Earlene, 3 — were living when a friend nominated them for the show’s help.

While the Riggins family occupied the lower level of the house — Linda has severe arthritis and William is legally blind — the upstairs was usually shared by people that Building Together serves.

While the Extreme Makeover crew did its work on the house — fully razing the structure Dec. 2 and rebuilding it from the ground up — other volunteers from the show went to work on the former school building.

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