‘There’s always Grandma’s house’

Published 1:15 pm Friday, July 2, 2010

The Landrum community is banding together to help a Landrum grandmother keep her home.

Ida Mae Wright has lived in her N. Trade Avenue home since 1970 and is now faced with either fixing the aged home or losing it.

The City of Landrum condemned the house last week because of its unsafe porch, whose roof and floor are both rotted. Wright received notices of the condemnation in the mail, but she cannot read and threw them away not knowing the grim news they contained. She now has 30 days to begin work on the porch or shell have to vacate the property.

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Landrum City Administrator Steve Wolochowicz said the house was condemned because the city is concerned about Wrights safety. He says the city welcomes the community helping Wright to fix the problems.

Landrum has given the family 30 days to get permits for construction and another 90 days to do the work. Plus, Wolochowicz says, the city will work with the family if the work cannot be done in that 90 days.

Were concerned about her safety; thats the only reason weve done this, Wolochowicz says. Due to the condition of the deck and roof, if something is not done quickly, something could happen to her.

At 77 years old, Wright says its all she can do to pay the bills and buy her medication on her fixed income, much less renovate the house.

If Id had the money I would have fixed this place, Wright said, but its all I can do to pay the bills on what I draw.

A benefit is being planned for next Saturday, July 10 at the Celtic Tavern off U.S. 176 between Landrum and Tryon. Banding Together for Grandma will feature bands playing from 2 p.m. until 7 p.m. and karaoke until 11 p.m. to help raise money.

A Facebook message and YouTube video posted this week by one of Wrights granddaughters “went viral” quickly, with more than 400 people having viewed the video just one day after it was posted.

The YouTube video shows Grandma sitting on her porch answering questions asked by her granddaughter, Angie Crummie, who has spearheaded efforts to help her grandmother. In the video, Wright says tearfully that she doesn’t want to lose the house she raised her family in. She says she doesnt owe anything on the house, but she doesnt have any money to fix it and doesnt have anywhere else to go.

To see the video on YouTube, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBPKa-siOYg&feature=email.

The family has also sought help from the television show, “Extreme Makeover Home Edition,” whose website had about 60 comments about the Wright family on its discussion board as of Wednesday. Family members say they realize chances are slim that “Extreme Makeover” would take the case, especially considering the time restraints, but last week they didnt know where to turn.

Crummie says her grandmother did everything for her kids and grandkids, and many family members have lived there at some point in their lives. Messages on Facebook and on the “Extreme Makeover” website say Wright would give anyone the shirt off her back. They also comment on the memories her house holds for many in the community.

The family says people have been stopping by the house all week, volunteering to help with repairs. The family says the help is there and they are so thankful. Now they are just seeking funding to get the project behind them.

It’s important to relieve Wright of the stress of the situation, her family says. Wright has suffered two strokes in recent years and also suffers from arthritis and diabetes.

Weve got a mountain in front of us that we have to climb, Crummie said.

The family says they have no hard feelings towards the city, because they agree the house needs to be repaired.

Wright, who has lived in Landrum since 1958, says she dearly loves the city and doesnt blame officials for condemning the house.

Wright and her husband, Lee, bought the property in 1969 and kept it up until Lee died 18 years ago. Wright had four children, whom the couple raised in the house, and 20 grandchildren, all of whom at some point have also lived in the house. Wright also has about 50 great-grandchildren.

All of the grandkids at some point have lived here, Crummie said. When theres no place to go, theres always grandmas house.

Crummie and Wright said the house is full of memories. Wright remembers her husband, who loved to read, sitting on the porch in the summertime reading, drinking coffee and listening to the radio.

This house has so many memories, Crummie said. Its just amazing some of the stuff that went on in this house and thats just in the last 40 years. Theres no telling what went on before that.

The Wright family has deeds to the house that date back to around 1915, but the family has been told it was originally built in the late 1800s. The two-story home has three bedrooms downstairs, and the upstairs is no longer used. Its one bathroom was built onto the back porch sometime before the Wrights bought the house.

Wright retired from Millikens Hatch Plant in Columbus, where she worked for about 15 years. Before that, she worked for South Carolina Elastic Company for about 18 years. Her husband worked much of his life at Landrum Mills.

Back then we lived from week to week, Wright said. We didnt have any money to put back.

Wright says one of the problems of the house is that it sits right next to the railroad tracks, and when trains ran, the house shook with every train. Wright was hit by a train while driving across the crossroads just up from her house in the 1970s and says the train is not something she misses today.

Wright says she is overwhelmed at the support she has seen this week from the community, both from people she knows and many she has never met before.

I appreciate everybody for what theyve done to help me, Wright said. Theres still some good people. And I have the sweetest granddaughters that ever lived. I just dont want to lose my home. We worked too hard for this little piece of land to lose it.

A bank account has been set up at the First Citizens Bank in Landrum. Donations can be made to the Wright Donation Fund by mail or in person at 144 N. Trade St., Landrum, S.C. 29356. Donations can be taken only at First Citizens locations in South Carolina.