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Volunteers pitch in to clean up Webb house

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The buzz of chain saws and the whirring of weed trimmers could be heard from the historic Pleasant Street neighborhood Friday morning as teams of volunteers cleaned up the yard of the historic John Lee Webb house.

The house, located at 403 Pleasant St., was visited by volunteers from Ozark Mission Project, Teen Challenge and People Helping Others Excel By Example with the goal of giving the residence's outdoor property a cleaner appearance. The cleanup effort was the latest iteration in P.H.O.E.B.E.'s efforts to restore the Webb house for the purpose of preserving history and educating area youths.

Cheryl Batts, founder and president of P.H.O.E.B.E., said her organization began its restoration of the home in November 2014. Since then, the organization has raised over $90,000 in grants and donations, from which it restored the house's roof.

Friday morning's cleanup was an unpaid effort that came about as a result of P.H.O.E.B.E. reaching out to Ozark Mission Project, based out of Little Rock, and Teen Challenge. Richard Fish, a leader of Ozark Mission Project, said his team was able to participate in the cleanup because they were in Hot Springs building wheelchair ramps that week.

Batts said Ozark Mission Project's interest in the restoration project was immediate upon her mentioning it to them.

"I called them, and they said, 'sure.' They were glad to do it," she said. "They just really loved what we were doing."

Fish had positive things to say about the restoration project.

"We got to walk through and kind of see the vision of what it's gonna be, and once you do that, you can kind of see the outlines of the beautiful old house here," he said. "With a little bit of vision, you see what it can be, and that kind of gets you excited."

Fish said the goal of Friday's cleanup was to get the residence entirely mowed and trimmed and to pick up trash and clean up construction. The effort included people of all ages grooming hedges, raking leaves and cutting grass around the house.

Now that the outside of the Webb House is cleaned up, P.H.O.E.B.E. is looking to install fascia boards, fix the windows and replace the bricks. Batts said the ongoing restoration effort has the end goal of housing a youth leadership program for students of Garland County's schools and paying homage to Hot Springs' African-American history.

Batts said because the house is located in an area with a historic designation, the restoration efforts involve specific guidelines. She said such requirements lengthen the process, but she doesn't mind.

"I don't really see this as a total conflict," Batts said. "It's just different ideas of seeing how you can go about it through historic preservation and create development."

"It's gonna turn out beautiful; it's gonna be a lot of work, though," Robert Phillips, senior staff member of Teen Challenge, said. "All the volunteers working together, the community coming together to do it, is pretty awesome. It's cool to see."

Batts offered her thanks to everyone who has helped in the restoration.

"We're looking forward to them staying on board with us as they see us meticulously put the house back together piece by piece," she said. "At the end, we're all gonna be very happy with what we've done."

Local on 06/19/2017

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