House renovated by volunteers for a young Texan who takes care of his brother



Jaylan Gray’s mother died two years ago of a blood disease, leaving him alone in their Texas home with his then 10-year-old brother.

“Before she died, she told me not to sell the house,” said Gray, 22, whose stepfather had died several years earlier. “My mum and stepdad had paid for it and she wanted us to live there.”

Then, last year, disaster struck their three-bedroom home near Houston, when pipes burst in the big winter storm that left millions of Texans without power for days. The house was quickly flooded from the attic, soaking and destroying the ceilings, walls and floors.

Gray hired a contractor to make repairs, but the contractor drilled holes in the walls of the entire house and then disappeared with about $20,000, he said. Gray did not have the resources to pursue the case.

He filed a police report, but authorities couldn’t find the contractor. Gray ultimately decided to move on, he said. He had no home insurance to cover the damage because the policy had lapsed, he said.

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He wanted to find another way to fix the house so it would be livable, but with so much on his plate, he didn’t know where to turn.

“I couldn’t keep up – it was just too much,” Gray said of the home, which is in Katie. “I couldn’t afford the repairs.

Overwhelmed, Gray and her brother, Julian Nicholson, moved across town to live with their grandmother. But Julian had to change schools and both wanted to return to the house where they had lived with their parents.

“We were really grateful to him, but I always wanted to bring Julian back to the house we grew up in, so he could play football at the same school as me,” Gray said.

“I want to make sure he doesn’t get in trouble and that things will go as well as possible for him at school,” he added.

Gray, who was enrolled in college, quit taking classes and got a job with an auto inspection company to help pay the bills and raise his brother.

“Julian has become my priority,” Gray said of her brother, who is now 12 and entering seventh grade. “I promised my mom I would take care of him and the house, so I dropped out of college.”

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“I wanted my brother to feel loved and loved,” he said, adding that he had no idea what he was going to do with the damaged house, but decided he wouldn’t. wasn’t going to give up.

Then in the spring, Kevin and Michelle Duty, who volunteer with the nonprofit community association Katy responds — who helps rebuild homes after natural disasters — heard from a friend about the brothers’ situation.

“It was just heartbreaking to find out what these two had been through,” said Kevin Duty, 56. “For Jaylan, it was unimaginable to have to take on so much at such a young age.”

Duty contacted the association’s executive director, Ron Peters, and informed him.

“We thought Katy Responds would be a good solution to help them out,” Duty said, noting that the group relies on community donations and volunteers to renovate homes damaged in natural disasters.

Peters said he immediately agreed to help and contacted several dozen volunteers after examining the house closely.

“When I walked in, my heart sank,” he said.

“They had lost everything to the burst pipes except for their mother’s dining room table,” said Peters, 59. “There were holes in the walls, the floor was completely destroyed and the air conditioning system was gone. The contractor they had hired had stolen it.

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Peters told Gray his group could fix the house for free in about three months — just in time for the start of the new school year.

“We’ve repaired 160 homes and the stories of each renovation are moving,” he said. “But this one really touched our hearts.”

Volunteers repaired the roof, removed crumbling furniture and flooring, installed new drywall, and rewired, plumbed, and painted the entire house.

“From the first day they said they were going to take on this project, I wanted to help,” said Pauline Mabry, 61, who has volunteered with Katy Responds for two years.

“I felt devastated that this young man had to take on all this responsibility after his mother died,” she said. “This is the house where he grew up with his brother. I wanted to help make it new.

Mabry said she helped remove damaged drywall, baseboards and kitchen cabinets, then tackled much of the paint.

She was joined for several weekends by Gray, who helped paint the walls until she was asked to bow out in the final stages of the work.

“We really wanted him and Julian to be surprised with the end result,” Peters said.

When the brothers entered their renovated home on August 12, they could hardly believe what they saw. They both cried, Gray said. Volunteers gave them a new kitchen and bathrooms, and Houston Lakewood Church donated new furniture.

The project cost around $50,000. It went over budget by about $10,000, said Peters, who is fundraising to cover the rest.

“What they’ve done for us is so much more than I ever imagined,” Gray said. “God, I was blown away. Everyone was so nice to us – they went above and beyond.

“It makes me happy to see that there are good people out there,” Julian said. local television crews who were there to capture his reaction.

“I just love the way we were treated,” he said through tears. “I didn’t think anything good would happen.”

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Gray said their mother, Roslyn Nicholson, would have been delighted with the improvements to the home.

Gray said he hopes to one day go back to college and pursue his dream of becoming a ranger, preferably in Texas.

“I love being in nature – it would be the perfect job for me,” he said.

Until then, he said he was content to help his brother with his homework at their mother’s dining room table.

“I want Julian’s future to be better than what I’ve been through,” Gray said. “My little brother is my main focus right now. Just seeing him every morning makes me smile.

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