With student rental housing across the street, down the street and around the corner, Teresa Shaw knows Northside is changing.
But this week, the single mother celebrated recent renovations that she says will help her stay in her Sunset Drive home. The Greater Chapel Hill Association of Realtors picked Shaw’s house and the one her mother lived in next door for its annual service project.
“It looks like a totally different house,” said Shaw, a registered nurse, as she stood in her freshly painted kitchen with refinished hardwood floor.
Shaw, a Chapel Hill High graduate, grew up in Northside and came back in 2011 to care for her elderly mother, Barbara Foggie, at 307 Sunset Drive.
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“She was 83 years old with nothing but her Social Security, who desperately needed repairs on her house,” Shaw said.
She found out about the Realtors’ Fix-A-Home project through The Marian Cheek Jackson Center, a community history and development center.
“They said it would be a long shot, but it was like ‘Just fill (the application) out,’ and a month later, ‘You’ve been selected.’ ... It was truly a blessing.”
Volunteers replaced Foggie’s heating and air conditioning, hot water heater and plumbing. But Foggie, who had taken out a reverse mortgage on the house, died last summer and the family must now sell the two-story house, listed at $265,000.
The Realtors continued their work at 305 Sunset Drive, a one-story home built in 1957 where Shaw and three of her six children live with the family’s two dogs.
Volunteers replaced doors, installed ceiling fans, light fixtures, a kitchen sink, bathtub, vanity and toilet. They replaced broken windows, cleared overgrowth and repainted inside and out. Accent Hardwood Flooring refinished the floors and Budget Blinds donated blinds.
Anne Hoole, Fix-A-Home committee chair, estimated the total value of materials and in-kind services at over $20,000.
The service project, now in its eighth year, is a lifesaver, said last year’s recipient Susan Prytherch, who brought her daughter Elizabeth, 12, to Tuesday’s celebration at Shaw’s house.
“Before, I couldn’t even cook in (my kitchen),” she said. “Only one of the stove burners was reliable. They completely redid it. We were at the point of using a toaster oven.”
Prytherch, who is on disability, has asthma and has had both knees replaced. She said the makeover raised her spirits.
“They painted it pretty colors,” she said. Elizabeth’s room is yellow, blue and green. “It sounds silly, but it makes such a difference to have pretty colors in your home.”
Shaw’s daughter’s room once had grayish-yellow walls, but they’ve been repainted teal, the same color hair as 10-year-old Kiara’s favorite anime character Hatsune Miku has on the series, “Vocaloid High School.”
Standing in her sunlit bedroom Tuesday, Kiara dug out a hanging macrame planter and held it high in the air.
“This is something I found outside on the street,” said the fifth-grader at nearby Northside Elementary School. “I like to twirl it around.”
Outside, Shaw, 53, smiled broadly as well wishers, including Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and Town Council member Maria Palmer leaned in for hugs.
The town has tried to preserve the neighborhood’s character in recent years, working with residents to form a Neighborhood Conservation District that limits the size of new homes, prohibits most new duplexes and puts other restrictions on growth.
Shaw said she worries that might make things more difficult if she someday wants to add more room for Kiara and her brothers, Uriah, 15 and Zachariah, 12, or have space for her older children to stay when they visit.
For now, though, she doesn’t want to live anywhere else.
“I’ve heard the horror stories, but we have a great street of students,” she said. “It’s still a nice community vibe.”
Her grandfather built three houses in the neighborhood, and Shaw still calls nearby houses by the name of the families that once lived in them.
“When I lived here (with her parents) in 1968, my whole family lived on this street,” she said.
“There’s just a lot of history here for me.”