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Robert’s “Smokey Mountain” View

Robert Wathen
Photo by Ann W. Olson,

From the start of site preparation for his new home, Robert has been on the beautiful ridge in eastern Kentucky assisting the Frontier crew. He cut, carried and burned brush. He grilled lunch for the crew. He took hundreds of photos chronicling this special event. He was there when the modest manufactured home arrived and there when Frontier Housing held an open house for interested community members.

This level of involvement is especially meaningful when you know some of Robert’s history. After being injured in a workplace accident 17 years ago, Robert Wathen spent six months in a hospital, a portion of this time in an induced coma as treatment for brain swelling. Recovery from the accident was difficult and long. Robert had to relearn how to walk, talk, and read.

Although he has made many advances, his disabilities make it impossible for him to return to the type of work he had done prior to his accident. This has impacted his ability to qualify for a loan, but it has not affected his ability to engage in the hard work it takes every day to create a productive life despite his disabilities.

Robert was "tired of renting apartments and wanted to settle into a home of his own." He missed the spacious feeling he fondly remembers from his childhood years on his Granny’s acres. Like many from eastern Kentucky, he yearned to return to the land of his youth.

Photo by Ann W. Olson,

In Spring 2008 Robert visited several banks only to be told his income did not qualify him for a loan. As he walked through the lobby of one more bank, his eyes met those of Wendy Puckett, Frontier Housing’s Fundraising and Development Manager as she worked in Frontier’s satellite office. Wendy’s offer of help led them into a long conversation that revealed Frontier might be able to assist Robert in his desire to be a homeowner. Robert was interested, excited and determined to become a homeowner. He participated in Frontier’s Homeowner Education classes to take the first step toward purchasing a home. From that first day, Robert was a walking, talking advertisement for Frontier. When asked what his family thought, he said, "When I told my Mom, she cried."

With Robert's limited income, Frontier identified him as a potential customer for their new smaller model manufactured home. It’s an ENERGY STAR® qualified home built to Frontier's quality specifications at the Norris plant of Clayton Homes.

Robert has plans for his home. He plans to build a chicken coop and raise chickens for eggs, plant a garden, and maybe some tomatoes. He will build a rock garden in view of his bedroom window where he will place a small angel figure that belonged to his Granny – to honor his Granny who once said, "there are people out there who will help. But until now, I didn’t believe her. Frontier Housing has made all my dreams come true." He will be there, in his home, in his words, "till my dying days."