Talbott man dies after church volunteers built house

DANDRIDGE (WATE) – A church in Talbott rallied around down-and-out couple Jake and Evelyn McKinney last year. During a series of stories, WATE 6 On Your Side shared how the church built a home on the couple’s property. Sadly, Jake McKinney died last week of cancer. Church members say they will miss their friend.

When we last visited the McKinneys just before Chrismas, they were entering their new home in Dandridge for the first time. Here, they would be able to live under a dry roof. Donations from people who saw the stories about them were used to buy furniture and appliances.

More: Previous stories on Jake and Evelyn

Captive Free Ministries Church adopted the couple and used donations to fill their home with amenities that most of us take for granted.

Jake McKinney died on April 1 of prostate cancer, at the age of 79.

He and Evelyn lived in the small home built from donations and sweat equity provided by the church for two and a half months.

Pastor Glen Dockins shows Jake and Evelyn their new home.
Pastor Glen Dockins shows Jake and Evelyn their new home.

“An amazing man. Changed me as a man. Changed me even as a pastor,” said Pastor Glen Dockins.

Dockins became Jake McKinney’s close friend.

“It changed our ministry. Our people got to see what it meant to help someone and see it through,” said Dockins.

Jake McKinney first showed us around his three acres of property in mid-June 2014 after we got a call from a concerned neighbor. Jake and Evelyn had no shelter, except for a leaky camper where they escaped when it rained. Their refrigerator was outside. Power was drawn from and electrical pole and drop cords were scattered around the yard.

Worst of all, they had no septic tank or toilet hookup.

The couple admitted they needed assistance because Jake McKinney said they were both sick, but didn’t want to leave their place.

In early July, Ashton Smith from Capitive Free Ministries pledged the church’s support to the couple. Church leaders received Jake McKinney’s approval and plans were outlined to help meet their needs.

By October, Jake’s property was cleared of debris, a septic system system was installed and the little house on the hill was taking shape thanks to an involved church.

“When I first went down there, I was in shock. I thought nobody here lives like this, but they did. And Jake was so appreciative of every little thing. We fell in love with this couple. They were precious beyond words,” said church member Reba Valentine.

Pastor Dockins says Evelyn was injured and hospitalized this past weekend after suffering seizures, but a local agency has stepped in to help.

“She is not able to care for herself, so she is going to be going to a group home,” said Dockins.

Through tears, Jake expressed his thanks last December in a lasting tribute to those touched by this gentle man.

“He was such an influence on everybody and he is going to be greatly missed,” said Valentine.

At their church building in Talbott, Captive Free Ministries operates a clothing bank for people in their community. In memory of Jake, the church plans on naming their clothing bank, “Jake’s Helping Hands Ministry,” a fitting tribute to the man who brought their church together.

Evelyn McKinney is expected to recover from her fall. Church members say they will continue to visit her.

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