Blythewood team reaches out to family of missing Ridge View cheerleader

Building Hope –
Timothy Kern (left) and Bill Sinnett, co-owners of Fortress Builders in Blythewood, Kimberly Sinnett, the project coordinator and Phil Rooney, load their truck with hardwood flooring that they hope will bring comfort to a family struck by tragedy.

When Gabrielle Swainson, a 15-year-old newly named cheerleader at Ridge View High School, went missing last month from her home in nearby Northeast Columbia, family members, friends and complete strangers from the community wanted to help. Some helped in the search for Gabrielle, some prayed for the teen and her family while others assisted in a myriad of different ways.

But a group of Blythewood builders and construction workers teamed up to help out in a way that most of the public didn’t know was needed. They donated materials and labor to finish repair work that had been started in the family’s home by the suspect in the case prior to Gabrielle’s disappearance.

“When I heard about this little girl’s disappearance and the tragedy surrounding it,” said Bill Sinnett, who lives in Crickentree and co-owns  Fortress Builders in Blythewood, “I, like everyone in the community, felt heartbroken for her and her mom. I have children Gabrielle’s age, and I can’t imagine the pain her mom feels, the worry she has. My immediate reaction was that I wanted to help this family in some way.”

It didn’t take long for Sinnett to formulate a plan to help. He learned from an acquaintance who knew Gabrielle’s mom, that the suspect in the case, Freddy Grant, had left unfinished repair work in the house after it was damaged from a water leak. Numerous areas were damaged, including wood flooring, drywall, ceilings and more.

“When I heard that, I knew right then what I would offer to do – finish those repairs,” Sinnett said. “And as soon as I began getting supplies together, my subs and others who work with me wanted to help, too.”

After a couple of days, Sinnett’s team numbered around 20, including Builders First Source, Dustin Carlson ACD Flooring, Professional Paint & Drywall, Syed Amhed’s Real Value Granite Countertops and others.

“My wife, Kimberly, is coordinating the project and my two supervisors, Donnie Lloyd and Russell English, are coordinating the repairs and work,” Sinnett said. “Everybody wants to do something.”

After a complete survey of the repairs needed, Sinnett and his team went to work last Monday and expect to complete the project the first of next week.

But the team isn’t stopping with the repair of the damage from the water leak. They are performing something of a mini-makeover of the home that includes new appliances in the kitchen as well as granite countertops.

“When we were in there and saw something that needed doing,” Sinnett said, “we did it.”

Like replacing the carpet on the stairs with hardwood treads. Then, that called for a stained stair rail to match.

“We wanted it to look nice and match the floor,” Sinnett said. “We just want it to be nice for her.

And before we leave, the last thing we’re going to do is install new carpet in her daughter’s bedroom,” Sinnett added. “The community is concerned for this family and, like everyone else, we are, too.”

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