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PHOTO SLIDESHOW: Hamilton family is home at last


GRAFTON TWP. — The Hamilton family is home.

After a fire destroyed the house on Oct. 30, 2005, Duane and Cheryl Hamilton and their six children were left homeless.

For the first time in three and a half years, the Hamiltons was able to sleep in their own beds last night in their six-bedroom, four-bathroom, furnished home.

It’s all 9-year-old Madison Hamilton ever wanted.

With her husband, Duane, standing close by, Cheryl Hamilton and the couple’s six children walked through their front door as the crowd cheered, “Open that door!”

As Cheryl was wheeled into her foyer, tears streamed down her face.

It was the moment family friend and house project coordinator Mitch Witherell had been waiting for since November 2008.

“Welcome home, Cheryl,” Witherell said as he guided her through the home.

Past stories
May 4, 2009: New home could be ready in weeks
March 23, 2009: Economy slowing Hamilton home
Feb. 2, 2009: Volunteers hope to have family back in home by spring
Dec. 15, 2008: Community pitches in to rebuild home
Nov. 28, 2008: Family has a more hopeful Thanksgiving
April 27, 2007: Family of eight rebuilds
Nov. 29, 2005: Puppy joins family after devastating blaze
Nov. 10, 2005: Fund set up for family homeless after fire
Nov. 3, 2005: Donations sought for family homeless after fire
Nov. 30, 2005: Grafton Township family loses home in fire

As emotion overcame Cheryl Hamilton, she held her children close to her.

“Oh my gosh,” she said, choking up. “This is awesome.”

When the door to the master bedroom opened, she sat in her wheelchair and took it all in as her husband, Duane smiled.

Duane Hamilton, a commercial construction worker, helped Witherell and the 100-plus volunteers, finish the house for his family.

In fact, Duane devoted so many hours of his life into his family’s home, he had a difficult time keeping the details a secret.

“I just kept making excuses and I refused to tell them. I told them things that really hadn’t been happening,” Duane said smiling. “It would have taken me 10 more years to do this without (the volunteers).”

The rough frame of the new house was purchased at a discounted price from 84 Lumber in December 2006. The family purchased the framing knowing it would take a long time to rebuild.

From May 2007 to November 2008, Duane Hamilton worked on his family’s new home with the help of family and friends in between out-of-state jobs.

Now, the Hamilton family has a home to call their own, without a mortgage since all of the work was done free of charge thanks to the kindness of the volunteers.

“Our house, it’s beautiful. I cannot believe everything (the volunteers) have done,” Cheryl Hamilton said.

According to Witherell, family and friends occasionally would speak with the Hamilton children to find out what interests they had or what their favorite color was. This information was then used to create the bedrooms.

Madison Hamilton, and her 6-year-old sister, Sydney Hamilton, love the color pink, and anything having to do with Barbie or Tinker Bell. Now, the two sisters can play Barbie for hours in their new pink room.

For 15-year-old Serena Hamilton, “Twilight” is the theme of her new bedroom, which is adorned with a poster and pictures from the book series.

Caitlynn Hamilton, 13, had a smile on her face as she walked into her new bedroom, which was painted in her favorite color — green.

Ryan Hamilton, 14, could not contain his excitement as he opened the door to his new room. The sports’ themed room is where he will play “Guitar Hero.”

The last child to see his room was 7-year-old Garrett Hamilton.

With a little support from his father, the young boy cautiously opened the door to his room and was welcomed by SpongeBob SquarePants.

“Look, you have a fish tank built into your wall,” his father told him.

Garrett Hamilton’s face glowed as he ran to his mother.

Since the fire left the family of eight homeless, they had lived in hotels and stayed with family and friends.

Before Witherell began working on the house with the other countless volunteers, a friend of the Hamilton family contacted ABC television network’s reality show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” but the show rejected the family’s request to help rebuild.

“So we did it our way! We didn’t have a big budget, TV cameras watching our every move, or any extravagant things, but we did have plenty of heart,” Witherell said, looking into a sea of contractors and volunteers.

From the beginning, Cheryl Hamilton questioned Witherell’s devotion. She had been let down so many times before, she just could not bring herself to believe that someone she barely knew would want to help her and her family.

But on Sunday, Cheryl Hamilton realized there are good people in the world who keep their word.

“These people are unbelievable. They really cared for someone they didn’t know. Thank you still just doesn’t seem like enough,” Cheryl Hamilton said as she sat in her family room for the first time.

The path to a new home

  • Oct. 30, 2005: Fire engulfed the home of Duane and Cheryl Hamilton located at 18574 state Route 57 in Grafton Township. Fire blamed on a faulty water heater.
  • Dec. 24, 2005: Hamilton family forced to spend the holiday season in a motel.
  • Oct. 30, 2006: Hamilton family still without a home and living in motels and with family and friends.
  • December 2006: Rough frame of the new house purchased at a discounted price from 84 Lumber. The family purchased the framing knowing it would take a long time to rebuild.
  • January 2007: Modern Poured Walls provided the footers and basement to the new home at a discounted price.
  • March 2007: 84 Lumber begins to deliver framing package.
  • March 2007 to May 2007: Windows, doors, roof and frame completed on new house.
  • May 2007 to November 2008: Siding put up and Duane Hamilton worked on his family’s new home with family and friends when he had time.
  • March 2008: A family friend contacted the ABC television network’s reality show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” with the hope of helping the Hamiltons finish their home.
  • Nov. 28, 2008: Grafton resident Mitch Witherell reads about Hamiltons’ struggle to rebuild in The Chronicle. He begins contacting local businesses in an effort to bring the Hamilton family of eight home.
  • Dec. 14, 2008: “Rebuilding the Hamilton Home Party” takes place at the family’s house in Grafton Township.
  • July 19, 2009: The Hamilton family finally comes home.

Donor list

  • Superior Electric, Elyria
  • Wolfe Bros Supply, Elyria/Medina
  • Hoffman Plumbing (Pete Renuart), Westlake
  • Homenik Door Co., North Ridgeville
  • Halona Management, Grafton
  • Spitzer Hardware, Grafton
  • Landmark, Grafton
  • Miller and Association Porta-Potty, Cleveland
  • Fastenal, Elyria
  • Eric Long Electrician, Amherst
  • Ricks Drywall, North Ridgeville
  • 84 Lumber Company, Grafton
  • MFS Supply Company, Solon
  • Gene's Heating and A/C, Medina
  • Modern Poured Walls, Medina
  • Porters Carpeting and Flooring, North Ridgeville
  • Finish Line Woodworking (Kieth Falkowski), Grafton
  • Mike Duff (attorney), Lorain
  • Marilyn Sparks, Wellington
  • Baird Bros Trim, Canfield
  • Clete Yoder, Mennonite Disaster Services
  • Jim Clark (carpenter), Grafton
  • Cleveland Plumbing Supply, Elyria
  • Moen Corp., North Olmsted
  • Lynn Chapin, kitchen cabinets, Norwalk
  • Patriot Surplus, Elyria
  • Medina Osborne Concrete Corp.
  • Baxter Concrete Construction
  • Kendera Excavating
  • Jet Inc.
  • Burnette's Septic, LaGrange
  • Neds Seamless Gutter
  • Risko's Insulation
  • Eugene Sponseller, cabinet-maker
  • Eric, manager of Carter Lumber, Oberlin
  • Jeff Brady Carter Lumber, Medina
  • Yoder Plumbing
  • Edelman Plumbing Supply of Bedford Heights
  • Linden Propane, LaGrange
  • Chestnut Ridge Church , Elyria
  • Grafton United Methodist Church
  • Angie Ruffner, Grafton
  • Pastor Delaine K. McGhee, Grafton United Methodist Church
  • Pastor Darrel Meyers, Chestnut Ridge Baptist Church
  • Phil Thompson, electrician
  • Eric Sperings, Elyria
  • Sharon Moore, Wellington
  • Beth Plas, Grafton
  • Amy Bajko, Grafton
  • Diane and Joe Mendlik, Elyria
  • Diane Witherell, Grafton
  • Marlo Witherell, Grafton
  • Kalli Witherell, Grafton
  • Kim Renuart, Grafton
  • Pam Monschein, Grafton
  • Chestnut Ridge Baptist Church members, Elyria
  • Grafton Methodist Church members, Grafton
  • National Carpet Mill of Medina, Chris King
  • John Cass
  • Elyria Concrete Incorporated
  • Scott Smith, Sean Smith and Dave Del Rio of Modern Poured Walls
  • Coach Kerry Collins
  • Mark Wilson
  • Tracy Eckert and family of Medina
  • Tuohy Family of Medina
  • Dennis, Janice, Adam of State Crest Carpet and Flooring, Bedford Heights
  • Bob Sobal, Sobal Sales Cleveland premium flooring supplies
  • Hank Webber Jr. (vinyl) and The HJ Webber co. & Mannington (vinyl)
  • Tony Camera, thinset for tile install
  • Many anonymous donors
  • Wagner family, Grafton
  • Jason Richards, Richards Concrete, Vermilion
  • Many other family members and friends.
  • Oatey SCS Supply Chain Cleveland
  • St.Peters United Congregational Church, Circle Six Amherst
  • Grafton Concrete Ready Mix, Dean, store manager
  • The Chronicle-Telegram
  • Melissa Linebrink, Reporter, Chronicle-Telegram
  • Julie Wallace Managing, Editor, Chronicle-Telegram
  • Channel 3 News
  • Channel 19 Actions News
  • Channel 5 News
  • Channel Fox 8 News
  • Anonymous Employees Allen Community Hospital, Oberlin
  • Scott Thomas, Grafton
  • Stiegerwald Nurseries, Grafton
  • Hartsels, Electric Loren Hartsel, Grafton
  • Kevin O’Donnell, Scottdale carpet padding
  • Suburban Marble and Granite Co. Greg Gianivito, Cleveland
  • Medina Excavating
  • Todd Vanthor
  • NPL Homecare, Elyria
  • Invacare Corp., Elyria
  • Homer McCormick, North Ridgeville
  • Janet Kidd, Grafton
  • Lyle and Donna Witherell, Grafton
  • Joseph and Betty Stefanik, Wellington
  • Mary Joyce and Alice Lunn, Berea
  • Mary Kay Bernardi, Bay Village
  • Posey Depot, Elyria
  • Dave Hale, Something Fishy H2O Café Old Brooklyn
  • Mary Lunn, Columbia Station
  • Windy Hill Hardwoods, Canal Fulton
  • PC MD Computer Service Elyria
  • Worchesters Sales and Service, North Ridgeville
  • Grafton Mower Service, Grafton
  • Forthover Security, Elyria
  • Jeremy Bursley, Wakeman
  • Brad Essex, North Ridgeville

Contact Melissa Linebrink at 329-7155 or

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