Citi Stories Texas
People, Places and Events That Have Shaped The Lone Star State

Rebuilding Together

            Just as the last name “Parker” would have been the perfect fit for former City of College Station Parks & Recreation Director Steve Beachy, and Aggie faithful hope Coach Jimbo is a true “Fisher” of men–at least those possessing top-tier college football talent–the mission director at Christ United Methodist Church in College Station was named at birth...just right.

            Steve Godby is one of the most Godly men you’ll ever meet. He grew up in Bryan, son to  Cabble and Gladene Godby, and from an early age, he loved to tinker with his dad on various projects.

            Now, after retiring from Phillips Petroleum Company in 2011 and returning to College Station in 2014, Godby is putting his tinkering to good use.

            In addition to his duties at Christ UMC, Godby is also the local executive director for Rebuilding Together, a national nonprofit organization whose main mission is to provide no-cost home repairs for low-income elderly and disabled home owners.

            And, in College Station, Godby is never short on volunteer help.

            “Rebuilding Together has affiliates in more than 150 cities nationwide,” Godby says. “As is the case most places, here in the Bryan-College Station area, we rely heavily on the support of both our sponsors and underwriters as well as our volunteers.

            “And given that ‘selfless service’ is one of the core values of Texas A&M, we get a lot of help from both students and former students living here.”

            Godby himself is a graduate of Texas A&M, Class of 1977. During his career with Phillips, he moved 13 times. In 1996, while living in Lake Jackson, Texas, he had an experience on a summer mission trip that changed his life.

            “Growing up, I built tree houses with other kids in our neighborhood,” Godby says. “Ever since then, I’ve been a ‘do-it-yourselfer.’”

            At his church in Lake Jackson, Godby discovered U.M. ARMY. That’s an acronym standing for “United Methodist Action Reach-Out Mission By Youth,” a 40-year-old ministry which began in Athens, Texas.

            U.M. ARMY enables young people, mostly high school students, to experience “Christian growth through service to others.” That service is typically home repair and maintenance for low income, elderly, and disabled homeowners.

            “I was asked to get involved by U.M. ARMY volunteers at my church in Lake Jackson,” Godby says. “I think they wanted me to help because I had an SUV to transport the youth.”

            Godby drove a group of Lake Jackson high school students to Victoria, Texas, and what he saw there changed his life.

            “There is so much need in the world,” Godby says. “Turning someone’s tattered and torn old house into a home again is one of the most meaningful things I’ve ever done.”

            When Godby moved back to College Station in 2014, his aim was to continue his involvement with U.M. ARMY. To do that, he made frequent trips to Houston, where U.M. ARMY worked alongside the Rebuilding Together affiliate there.

            “The two organizations do about the same thing,” says Godby. “Rebuilding Together identifies the homeowners in need, and U.M. ARMY is one of many organizations which provide volunteers to do the necessary work.”

            It didn’t take Godby long to realize that starting a Rebuilding Together affiliate in Bryan-College Station might be a way for him to broaden his goal to help others.

            Godby’s first Rebuilding Together project locally was one he called “Project Donna” on the north side of Bryan. He names his projects for the owners of the homes on which he and his volunteers work. In just two weeks, Rebuilding Together completed its first two major home-renovation projects and three minor home-repair assignments, thanks to some 340 local volunteers who contributed an average of four hours of time each.

            By the end of 2018, Godby projects Rebuilding Together will have completed more than 100 local home-repair projects, with total volunteers approaching the one-thousand mark.

            Many of those who lend a hand are Texas A&M students. And while A&M is known for its “Big Event,” the largest one-day student-run service project in the country, Rebuilding Together outings happen, on the average, about two weekends per month, enabling people like Emily Pearson to give of her time and talents.

            Emily is a member of the A&M Class of 2018. She hails from Dallas and intends to use her degree in psychology to become a child-life specialist.

            Emily is also a “Maggie,” Texas A&M’s oldest women’s service organization.
“We’re a group of strong and empowered women looking to do good for each other and the world around us.”

            On a recent fall morning, Emily and a dozen of her fellow Maggies were busy tending to “Onie Mae’s Community Garden” on M.L. King Blvd. in Bryan. The garden rests next door to the home owned by Rickie Wayne Johnson, who is a beneficiary himself of Rebuilding Together’s spirit of altruism.

            “Rickie and I went to Bryan High School together,” Godby says. “I didn’t know him then, but I consider him a great friend now. He lost his arm in an industrial accident and so he’s been disabled for some time. His home was in dire straights and at risk of being condemned when Rebuilding Together arrived on the scene.

            “Rickie is really proud of what we did for him–and he was right there helping us do a lot of the work that he just couldn’t afford to get done. In gratitude, he offered land on his property for a community garden and he volunteered to take care of it.

            “So, we help him on that from time to time. and in return, he helps us doing work on other people’s homes.

            “He’s a heckuva volunteer, despite his disability.”

            Also on hand to help Ricky get the garden in shape for winter was Reverend Sam Hill, pastor of the North Bryan New Birth Baptist Church, and his two daughters.

            “I think doing work like this is important,” Rev. Hill says. “It shows there can be unity within the community. All of us have a vested interest in all of our communities. It’s not just one person’s community, it’s everyone’s.

            “We talk about walking by faith, but that’s not always easy,” Rev. Hill continues. “We see people on television or in another city or state lending a hand to others, but when it’s in your own community, your own next-door neighbor, and you see the help and how much impact that help has, that’s something very special.

            “Rebuilding Together makes that kind of difference in our communities.”

            When the need is great elsewhere, people like Steve Godby and dozens of other local volunteers are willing to go the extra mile–or miles–to lend a hand.

            Hurricane Harvey slammed into the Texas Gulf Coast in the late summer of 2017, causing catastrophic flooding throughout much of Houston, affecting hundreds of thousands of lives.

            Recovery is still ongoing.

            Through his work with Rebuilding Together, Godby mobilized College Station-area volunteers to assist in Harvey recovery efforts. Godby led eight different groups over eight different weekends in early 2018 to the south Katy area...where he lived himself before moving to College Station.

            “We lodged in my old church, Grace Fellowship Church, in Katy. They have been involved in recovery efforts since the beginning, housing rescue and repair teams from all over the country on their campus.

            “It meant a lot to me to be able to help in the area of town where people were affected that I used to know,” Godby says. “What struck me most about the experience, though, was that the rising waters treated everyone equally.

            “What I mean by that is whether you lived in a $100,000 house or a million-dollar mansion, the devastation was the same.”

            Dick Nelson is friends with Godby through Christ UMC. He’s a former Naval aviator–”I flew attack fighter airplanes, taking off and landing from the decks of aircraft carriers”–and while he did not graduate from Texas A&M, he retired here because his son is an Aggie who chose to stay.

            “Kids and grandkids,” Nelson says, “that’s why my wife and I’m here.

            In retirement, Nelson seeks both to stay busy and do meaningful work. Helping Rebuilding Together in the aftermath of Harvey accomplished both tasks.

            “I do a lot of work with Steve,” Nelson says. “I’m not always sure what’s for the church and what’s for Rebuilding Together, but that’s okay.

            “When we were in Houston, we got to help one woman who lost not only her car, her home and her at-home business, but also had recently lost her husband. We did mostly demolition work on her home. I remember the debris pile we stacked at the curb in front of her house and then looking up and down the street to see more of the same.

            “People had been waiting for months for that trash to be removed.”

            Of his volunteering activities, Nelson says, “I have other things I could be doing, but I would prefer to help people with my ‘handyman’ skills every day if I could.

            “A lot of people just don’t have the means to repair or fix up their homes. They wait and they wait and sometimes, if they’re lucky, people like us show up.

            “I’ve seen the look on those faces, those people whose lives we touch. Whether it’s someplace like the Houston area, or in one of the poorer neighborhoods in North Bryan, the need is the same.

            “And the gratitude is boundless. Through what we do, we can ease someone else’s burden, restore their home and their life to a better place.”

            Steve Godby’s dad used to tell him, there were only two things in life he couldn’t fix: a broken heart and the crack of dawn.

            Thanks to people like Steve Godby, Dick Nelson, the Maggies and countless other local College Station residents just like them, some broken hearts can be mended with just a few nails, a fresh coat of paint, and a caring spirit.

            For more on Rebuilding Together, visit their local website at www.rebuildingtogetherbcs.org