ROCKY MOUNT — Churches are best known for spiritual guidance, but a Rocky Mount congregation is going beyond the pews to help its neighbors. The group is making homeowners out of renters, and hopes to breathe new life into Rocky Mount.
The McGuire family is the first famly to move into their new house, which has been renovated by a group called A.T.O.M.
"It's real pretty," says April McGuire. "The thing I like best is that they have a cross in the front door. It's a whole lot of space. The kids have their own rooms."
A.T.O.M. plans to renovate 35 older homes for low to moderate families in Rocky Mount.
Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church started the group after the flooding from Hurricane Floyd.
"We see this as a hands-on ministry," says Rev. Thomas Walker. "We know that in this day, we have to meet people where their needs are."
A.T.O.M. hires contractors to do the heavy work and relies on volunteers, donations and grants for the rest. But the new owners have work to do, too.
"Before a family can become an A.T.O.M. graduate, they have to complete 16 classes. That includes personal budgeting, money management, and caring for your home," says the Rev. Louis Leigh.
The group plans to preserve the integrity of these old houses while improving the neighborhoods they are in. "Birth is a marvelous thing, but resurrection is better," says Rev. Walker.
The new owners will pay around $50,000 for most homes. There is one other benefit for some families: those with school-age children get a free computer when they move in.