“Hop in the truck, let’s go for a ride,” says Chuck Lemmond.
This is the best way to see the work that Hometown Missions does in Dripping Springs. We buckle into his white GMC and head north of RR 12. He soon turns left on Cortaro Dr.
Halfway up a hill, nestled between a neighborhood of high-end homes, Lemmond points out the remnants of a decrepit road. Previously the site of an old asphalt plant and trailer park, this is where the Hometown Missions story begins.
Lemmond, a home builder, was working with his church to help those in need with small home maintenance projects — things like adding a wheelchair ramp, fixing broken pipes and general clean-up jobs.
One day in October 2008, Lemmond and his seven-year-old daughter drove up to a trailer home at the top of the hill. He came to fix a broken pipe. They walked inside the dilapidated mobile home. Inside lived a recently widowed mother of five. The scope of the damage was far worse than expected.
“It was bad. I could see daylight coming through the walls,” Lemmond says. “I said, ‘This home is too far gone. But how about I get you a new home?’”
Lemmond instantly wondered to himself, “How did that come out of my mouth?”
“What I saw, I can’t unsee,” he recalls. “Half a mile from my church, in my hometown, I can’t believe people live like this.”
Lemmond shared his experience and asked the community for help. Quickly, dozens of Dripping Springs neighbors snapped into action, and within three months, the group had removed the old home and moved her family into a new one.
Although she wasn’t born here, the widow wasn’t new to the area. She’d lived near Dripping Springs since she was two years old.
“I realized that she was hiding in plain sight,” Lemmond says. “These people are all around us. We pump our gas next to them. We shop for the same tools at Home Depot. But they are invisible to us.”
The process was enlightening for Lemmond. He decided to make it his mission to help those hiding in plain sight. Since then, Hometown Missions has assisted dozens of families in the Dripping Springs area.
The volunteer non-profit allows locals to perform missionary work without leaving the area. Hometown believes safe, healthy housing is a basic need and the launching point for education and success.
We pull away from the hill and turn back onto RR 12. Lemmond takes a quick left. He tells me this neighborhood is called “The North 40.”
“Not much later, we learned about an elderly couple,” Lemmond recounts as we come to a stop. He points at a mobile home. “It doesn’t look like much, but it was so much worse. There were holes in the floor.”
It wasn’t as big of a job as the first one, but it was equally impactful.
The older residents of the home were reclusive, but after the group helped them, they came back into the community and back to church.
“It reinforced what we were doing. These people had lived here for 40 years, and they came out of hiding,” Lemmond says.
As we ride through the neighborhood, he points at several weathered homes and shares stories about each one. There’s the house where they remodeled the bathroom for a neighbor who needed alterations to take care of himself. He tells a story about how the city reached out to the organization to help clean up a yard full of junk left behind by a hoarder with mental illness.
Chickens, stray cats and small dogs run by. We sit less than two miles from downtown Dripping Springs, yet this neighborhood feels like a different world.
With help from the community, Hometown Missions has grown. There are eight board members and one full-time employee serving to manage Hometown’s efforts and mission. The budget has grown as well, from $15,000 to more than $400,000. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of neighbors in need.
We’re back in the truck, cruising down Creek Rd. Lemmond turns right onto an unassuming road. He explains that these lots were sold in the 1940s, and almost every piece of land remains with the same family who originally bought it. Many homes house three generations today.
“It’s pretty simple, either we walk away or we do the hard work,” he says. “We’re just trying to help people who have lived here for generations.”
He stops the truck and points to a small white house on the left side of the road. Lemmond explains that the home that sat there had so much mold he couldn’t send volunteers in to fix it. They had to tear down the house and start fresh. So Hometown Missions did just that.
They built this cottage in one month. But they didn’t do it alone. A local architect designed the home, and more than 300 neighbors pitched in to make it happen.
“It was during COVID. We’re all mad, sitting in our houses and what happened in this lot was almost a miracle,” he says. “People came together. Strangers became friends. The community stepped up. That inspired us.”
Hometown is now partnering with other non-profits, including Habitat for Humanity, to create a new template for helping those in need. The group has big plans to create a tiny home development with truly affordable housing for our working neighbors. The organization also plans to document its process so that it can be repeated in other towns.
We turn back onto Creek Rd. and pull into a construction site. It’s here that Hometown is replacing a 54-year-old mobile home with a new home.
On the other side of the property, Lemmond points to a new mint green-painted house. The story is similar to the others. Three generations under one roof. Previously a home in unfixable condition. Holes in the floor with animals wandering through.
The residents included a boy in middle school who was always sick. “You would be sick if you walked in there for five minutes. The mold attacks your respiratory system,” Lemmond tells me. “Since we built this new home, he is healthy and captained his football team. That’s transformational.”
Throughout our morning, Lemmond constantly reminds me that the story isn’t about him. It’s about the people of Dripping Springs. “Whenever we’ve asked, from the beginning, the community shows up,” he says. “With their hands, feet and wallets.”
The organization needs funding and also volunteers. “Obviously, we don’t get anything done without financial help,” he says. “But it’s more special when people bring their kids to a construction site to drag stuff to a dumpster. It brings the community together.”
The conversation circles back to our first stop. Eventually, the land where Lemmond and his daughter met the young widow sold for development. But Hometown didn’t give up. The organization moved the home, and the family, to a spot just west of town.
“We’ve seen this family grow. Kids go to high school, jobs and beyond,” Lemmond says. “We appreciate the gifts we’ve been given and we want to help our neighbors with a hand up, not a handout.”