A boarded-up house in the 1700 block of North Spruce sprang to life Saturday as dozens of volunteers worked to make Glena Wright's dream come true.
"This is my little mansion," Wright said. "You may think it looks like a little old shack, but it means a lot to me.
"I believe it's God's way of giving me a second chance. It's little, but it's my little mansion."
As more than three dozen volunteers from the Christian Faith Centre worked on Wright's house, hundreds of other area church-goers donned powder-blue "Love Wichita" T-shirts and donated a few hours of their time Saturday to spruce up the city.
Across Wichita, organizers said, about 4,000 volunteers from 30 churches spent the day fixing, cleaning and hauling trash at parks, schools, camps and houses — like the one Wright hopes to move into May 31 with her three sons.
The story of the house on Spruce and how Wright came to own it started a decade ago when Wright, who had an advanced stage of cancer, walked into the Good Samaritan Clinic and met Andrea Dixon.
"She was a patient," Dixon recalled. "I was a volunteer."
Wright said she's faced some tough obstacles over the years.
"I've fought drugs," she said. "I've fought illness. I've fought a lot of things."
Although she's been cancer-free now for five years, Wright said she was facing a new crisis — the prospect of becoming homeless.
Wright's mother and father both died within the past year, she said. She and her children had been living in her parents' house, she said, but they faced a May 31 court-ordered deadline to vacate the home.
When Dixon heard about Wright's situation, she recalled a house that Christian Faith Centre Pastor Wade Moore had talked to her about.
Dixon, a self-described "professional volunteer," got to know Moore while she was helping to rehabilitate a house near Moore's church at 1130 S. Broadway.
Moore became a regular visitor as he monitored the project. Moore, Dixon learned, had a vision of someday helping the needy find permanent homes.
About a decade ago, Moore spent $2,000 on a vacant lot in the 1700 block of North Spruce with the thought of someday building a house there.
When the Kellogg reconstruction project forced the demolition of some homes along Pinecrest, Moore looked into the possibility of acquiring one.
"They gave me the house," Moore said.
"But then you had to move it," Dixon said.
"Which cost $10,000," Moore said.
After he built a new foundation and moved the house to the Spruce location, it sat vacant as vandals and thieves took their toll on its windows and copper piping.
About a year ago, Moore asked Dixon if she'd take on another remodeling project.
"He said, 'Do you want to do this again?'" she recalled. "I said 'nope. But I'll pray about it.'"
Not long afterward, after hearing about Wright's housing situation, her prayers led to a plan.
When she drove Wright past the boarded-up house on Spruce, Wright wasn't impressed.
"I thought, 'Unh-unh. You're crazy,'" Wright recalled. "But something made me keep driving by."
Eventually, she agreed to go inside.
"The windows were broken," Dixon said. "There were dead birds inside."
Dixon put on her volunteer hat and went to work.
"We got carpet and padding donated," she said. "We have a washer and dryer ready to go in here. And a couch."
Dixon said the volunteers with the Love Wichita project were making sure that the job gets done on time.
"There's a ton of work being done today, and there's a ton of work that still has to be done," she said. "But Glena will be moving in on Memorial Day."