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Front Page - Friday, April 29, 2016

Realtors, community support school for kids with learning differences

Realtor Derek English, Realtor Becky English, and Dr. Yother, head of school at Skyuka Hall, a local private school. An anonymous donor recently worked with the Englishes to sell a local home and then donated the proceeds from the sale to the school. - (Photo by David Laprad)

Selling homes is what Derek and Becky English do every day. Becky chose to become a Realtor in 1997 after being exposed to the business through an employer. Derek’s decision to become a real estate agent three years ago was made more out of necessity: he and his wife were going to grow their family, and their schedules were going to require greater flexibility.

“The decision was easy from one perspective – love,” says Becky, an agent with Crye-Leike Real Estate Services. “We knew the adjustments we would have to make, and didn’t blink an eye.”

Almost overnight, the Englishes transformed their family of three, which at the time included Derek’s daughter, then a high school sophomore, to a family of five when they opened their home to Becky’s two teenage nephews, who had been living with their grandparents. “Thankfully, our real estate experience enabled us to quickly find a larger home within a matter of days. It seemed as though God was opening doors for us to provide a home for the boys,” says Becky.

The English’s decision to expand their family was based on meeting the needs of a child with learning differences. Their oldest nephew has dyslexia, and was reading on a level well below his grade because he had not been receiving the services he needed. “Navigating the public education system, discerning what he needed, and making it a reality was a bit overwhelming,” says Becky, who became an advocate for her nephew. Today, he’s a high school junior reading at his grade level, and he was recently inducted as a member of his school’s Beta Club. Little did Becky know her experience in understanding learning differences and figuring out what her nephew needed would prepare her for another task.

In September 2014, a local bank needing assistance with one of their repossessions approached Becky. The property, located in Ooltewah at 4032 Platinum Way, was an attractive, executive-style home in a great location. “Unlike many of the foreclosures and bank repossessions we see, this home had been carefully stripped of its fixtures, right down to the door hinges,” says Derek, a listing agent with Crye-Leike. “There was no damage; it was just bare.”

After providing the bank with her review, Becky thought nothing more of the house or its future. Months later, 4032 Platinum Way resurfaced when one of her clients told her he was planning to purchase the house from its owner, FirstBank. “It was an odd coincidence, but I provided the same review I had given to the bank. I explained the long list of work needed, but said the end result would be a good investment,” she says.

A week later, Derek and Becky met with the prospective purchaser of the house to discuss his strategy when he revealed his plan for the house – to fix it up and give it away. “I will fix it up, but I want to give this house away to help kids,” their client said.

The “kids” turned out to be the students at Skyuka Hall, a school for children with learning differences located on Mountain Creek Road. Skyuka Hall’s head of school since 2014, Dr. Josh Yother, has been making a name for himself as his students not only defy the odds but thrive. While Dr. Yother gives all the credit to the kids, the faculty, and God, one thing is certain: Skyuka Hall is a special place for children who don’t fit the traditional student mold.

Derek and Becky soon found themselves in the middle of a project that would touch many lives. “After we met Dr. Yother and visited Skyuka Hall, we jumped on board and offered our time, contacts, and resources,” says Becky. The Englishes called on subcontractors, vendors, and clients to help with painting, installing new cabinetry, countertops, and appliances, and doing anything else that needed to be done to make the house marketable. After learning about the future of the house, FirstBank worked closely with the Englishes to ensure the process went seamlessly.

As the Englishes shared this remarkable story of generosity and introduced people to Skyuka Hall, many of the people that worked on this house donated their time or materials at cost. Materials, donations, or labor were provided by Reggie Garner of RiverBirch Homes, Siano Appliances, Black Creek Mountain Cabinetry, Louisville Tile, Stone Visions, and Coat of Many Colors Ministries, the actual recipient of the house.

“We were able to cut the budget for the renovation in half, and every dollar saved was a dollar from which the school and its students would benefit,” says Derek.

“The gentleman that facilitated the purchase of the house and donated it to the ministry deserves to be commended,” says Becky. “While he prefers to remain anonymous, his generosity will not go unnoticed by the students and their families.”

Tuition at Skyuka Hall currently stands at $14,200 per year, which is far below many private schools providing specialized education but still out of reach for many families. This contribution will now help these families.

The proceeds from the sale of 4032 Platinum Way went directly to Coat of Many Colors Ministries, which in turn gave the funds to Skyuka Hall. The Englishes donated all of their commission on the sale to Skyuka Hall as well. Selling Agent Billy Weathers with Re/Max Properties also contributed a sizeable portion of his commission.

The Englishes will not soon lose sight of the transforming power they’ve witnessed. The house received a remarkable makeover as it became the vessel to connect a man who overcame his learning challenges as a youth with kids who are overcoming theirs at Skyuka Hall. In short, the money raised through the sale of the house will go a long way toward transforming the lives of the students and their families who depend on Skyuka Hall.

Skyuka Hall serves K-8 students. However, growth has been so tremendous, the school is expanding to include ninth grade. To support Skyuka Hall or to let the school know about a child that would benefit from its services, call (423) 877-9711 or visit www.SkyukaHall.org.