Something old-fashioned and really special is happening in Fayetteville. Volunteers gathered on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 16 and 17, to stand up the walls for a new home for Ms. Derryll Anderson on Church Street.

The sound of hammers pounding nails filled the air downtown for two days as dozens and dozens of people assembled color-coded two-by-fours into walls that weekend. Organizers called it a Barn Raising, a term that harkens back to the days when neighbors in rural areas gathered to help farmers build shelters that protected precious resources. Perhaps there is no modern-day word for the spirit of reciprocity that held farming communities together two hundred years ago. Still, that same sentiment brought people together to honor a woman who has selflessly served her hometown for decades.

Square Foot Ministry leads the unique partnership of community leaders, churches, and private citizens who provided funds and services to build a home for  “Ms. Derryll,” as she is affectionately known by so many, on the street where a legacy of civic engagement and service passed from one generation to the next.

Derryll Anderson was born in 1948, the first child of William and Rosa Anderson. The couple raised Derryll and three more children in their home on Church Street when much of the road was unpaved. In the 50s, her father was one of the first African Americans to register to vote in Fayette County. He wasn’t allowed to come inside the courthouse, so he threw the registration forms through the window, Derryll says.

When he registered to vote, the Klan rallied down Church Street, according to Derryll. She remembers watching with her sister. The two girls, who were about four and five at the time, thought it was a parade.

“We thought it was great,” she says, laughing. “We waved at them.”

Rosa Penson Anderson, mother of Derryll Anderson

A poster-size photo of Derryll’s mother hangs on the wall inside the entrance to Fayetteville’s new city hall. Rosa Penson Anderson was born and raised in what is now Peachtree City and baptized at Bethlehem Baptist Church. In the photo, Mrs. Anderson is in the classroom where she was one of the first blacks to teach in Peachtree City schools.

Derryll attended Fayette County Training School and is proud to be an alumnus of Clark College, known today as Clark Atlanta University.  She lived in downtown Atlanta as a young adult and worked for U.S. Senator Wyche Fowler for a while. She returned to her family home in Fayetteville in 1997, began a career in real estate, and looked for ways to help the city. Soon after she came home, her father died, and she devoted herself to caring for her mother and community service.

“I used to come to city hall all the time to complain about something,” she says.

Her “complaining” led to sidewalks, stop signs on Church Street, and improvements to Church Street Park. Continuing her father’s legacy of civic engagement, Derryll served as an elections poll worker for more than 20 years. She said yes when the city asked her to serve on the Fayetteville Planning and Zoning Commission. During her 12-year tenure in this role, she helped steer the city toward smart growth while preserving the small-town charm she knew and loved.

In 2020, three years after her mother died, Derryll moved away from Church Street but continued to live in Fayetteville. She works part-time at the information desk at Fayetteville City Hall, greeting visitors with a welcoming smile and nurturing everyone she encounters.  At her desk on Valentine’s Day, she declared, “This is my happy place,” and proceeded to mother and nurture everyone who crossed her path.

Fayetteville City Councilman Joe Clark describes Ms. Derryll as a city ambassador.

“She not only provides you with engagement in the community, she just happens to be somebody who’s kind of like your mother,” Mr. Clark says. “She’s someone who guides you in the right direction. She gives you a lot of really good advice.”

“We need more people like Derryll Anderson and the love for the community that she’s brought to the City of Fayetteville.”

Julie Brown with Derryll Anderson at a Barn Raising for Derryll’s new home in Fayetteville, Georgia

Ms. Derryll is currently living in a temporary situation after having to move out of her home last year. Following her mother’s death and some health challenges, she was homeless for a time until Fayetteville City Planner Julie Brown heard about it. Ms. Derryll lived with Julie for a few weeks before moving to an apartment near City Hall. Since then, numerous officials and community leaders have rallied around an effort to get Ms. Derryll back to Church Street.

“I’ve gone through some changes these last few years,” Ms. Derryll told volunteers on the first day of the Barn Raising. “I was blessed to take care of my mother, but following that, I went through some changes. I was literally homeless, but God always took care of me, and now he is just slapping me with many more blessings.”

Derryll talked about how her mother sat on the porch of their home on Church Street, where she visited with people from across the community.

“The fact that you all are out here hammering these nails and assisting in every possible way is kind of like a tribute to my mother,” Derryll said. “I love my daddy, but my mother was the kind of the root of Fayette County. Everybody knew Mama. I am hoping I can be like my mama.”

Doug Higgins, founder of Square Foot Ministry, describes the project as a homecoming. The home for Derryll is across the street and down the block from the ministry’s first project, a house they renovated in 2002. First United Methodist Church made a lot available for the new home near the south corner of Church Street and Highway 54. The parcel is large enough for an additional house, which Square Foot plans to build there in the future.

Fayetteville Mayor Ed Johnson rallied financial support from churches and private individuals, which was instrumental in bringing Ms. Derryll back to her roots as a legacy member of the Church Street community. Rick Halbert, VP of Construction for the Town of Trilith, reached out to the building community about the situation. Builders, developers, designers, and leaders all responded generously.

The plan is to have Ms. Derryll living in her new home in May. When she no longer needs the home, Square Foot Ministries will repurpose the home to meet other housing needs in the community.

Building partners for this project have included:

America’s Home Place, Inc., Rochester and Associates, Jefferson Browne Architects, Swann Mechanical Services, Wallace Electric, Paul Hardy Electric;

Brent Scarbrough and Company, Strategic Roofing, Graphic Signs, JMJ Construction Services, Warner, Hooper and Ramsey law Firm, Trilith Development, Wright’s Hydroseed;

Concrete Supply, Avelo Paint, Atlanta Commercial Drywall, Foundation Building Materials, QTS Data Centers, Hitt Contracting, Clayco Construction;

Mask Roll Off, the City of Fayetteville, Needle Art Designs, Tyrrell Creative, Paulson-Cheek Mechanical, Fayetteville First UMC, Hildelberg Concrete Materials;

Safe Built, Belgard, The Southern Credit Union, Steel Fab Inc, The Clothes Less Traveled Thrift Shop, Second Chance Thrift Shop, Fayetteville Christian Church;

Be One Church, Fayette Presbyterian Church, New Providence Church, Evergreen Church, Coweta Fayette EMC, William Hagler, and Peachtree City UMC.