Most people around Whitesville believe Jerry and Vickie Morris are angels.
If someone in the community needs help with medical bills, Jerry and Vickie host a barbecue cook-off to raise money. If a local group lacks funds for a Haiti mission, the couple orders chickens and Boston butts to grill and sell.
Last year, Jerry and Vickie raised at least $200,000 for various causes and nonprofits, including St. Jude Children’s Hospital and Trinity High School.
To recognize Jerry and Vickie’s spirit of volunteerism and dedication to community, they were selected recently as Kenergy’s 2015 Members of the Year. In their honor, the cooperative donated $1,000 to Angels for Ashley – a nonprofit foundation Jerry and Vickie founded in 2009.
The foundation is named in honor of Ashley Johnson, a Whitesville girl diagnosed at 2 months old with Lennox Gastaut Syndrome and severe epileptic encephalopathy.
Ashley turned 16 in May. She suffers from daily seizures and is confined to a wheelchair. At one time, her parents carried her everywhere inside their midcentury home. Its hallways were too narrow for Ashley’s wheelchair.
“It took my husband and I both to get her in and out of the bathtub,” says Ashley’s mom, Charlotte Johnson.
In 2009, Ashley’s family nearly won a spot on ABC’s one-time popular TV show Extreme Home Makeover, which would have built a new home for Ashley and her family. But the show’s producers chose another Daviess County family.
That’s when Jerry – who owns Morris Construction in Whitesville – flew into action. He was determined to build the Johnsons a new home to accommodate Ashley’s needs.
And the Angels for Ashley Foundation was born.
Charlotte Johnson’s uncle donated land on Highway 54 for the new home. Before long, Jerry and Vickie had raised $40,000.
Local companies donated cabinets, appliances and more.
Craftsmen donated their labor. “It was nothing to have 40 to 50 men here working on a Saturday,” Jerry says.
The house was framed and under roof in one day, and brick layers from five companies laid the brick in one day. Competing companies worked side-by-side.
The Johnson home was built with love and generosity from many people, Jerry says. It didn’t cost the Johnson family a penny.
Construction started in November 2009. It was ready for the family to move into by February 2010.
The master bath features a large walk-in shower. Charlotte Johnson can bathe Ashley without assistance now, and no one carries Ashley from room to room because the house is wheelchair accessible.
But Jerry and Vickie never rested on their laurels.
“After the house was built, they kept raising money for many local families in a financial crisis due to disease or natural disaster,” says Ron Williams, Trinity High School principal. Williams nominated Jerry and Vickie for Members of the Year.
Now, a second Angels for Ashley home is in the works. The foundation and its many friends plan to build a home for Aaron Knott of Whitesville, who also is confined to a wheelchair.
“Every time I hear Angels for Ashley it touches a special place,” Charlotte Johnson says. “It’s pretty cool that it has lived on.”