Volunteers working to make Olinger house wheelchair-ready

Community takes action to create a home to meet the Olinger family's needs

Fred McCormick

An old proverb assures us that “home is where the heart is,” and there is no doubt that there will be plenty of warmth awaiting Britten, Sam and Kolbie Olinger when they return home in the coming weeks.

That’s because a team of caring neighbors is working on the family's home while Britten Olinger, Montreat College's track and field head coach, is in Atlanta being treated for a spinal cord injury.

Olinger, 31, was driving home from practice Feb. 27 when his car was struck in downtown Black Mountain by a car that investigators estimate was traveling at 120 mph. The driver of the second vehicle, Kyle Donte Carney, 31, of Winston-Salem, was charged with felony count of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, as well as three misdemeanor counts of assault with a deadly weapon among other charges.

The accident occurred at the intersection of State Street and Montreat Road. Mike Shoaf, Montreat College’s director of facilities, passed through the intersection “about 30 seconds before the accident,” he said.

Mike Shoaf removes a wall in the Britten, Sam and Kolbie Olinger house as he and a team of volunteers renovate the family's home.

Shoaf stepped into a restaurant on West State Street when he heard what he thought was a collision involving a train on the nearby tracks. “When I left the restaurant they had already blocked off the intersection, and I saw what looked like a car I had seen on campus before,” he said.

Maury Hurt, whose business Hurt Architecture & Planning is near the intersection, was “shocked by the level of devastation” he witnessed that February evening, he said.

“The word soon spread that this severely injured driver was one of the coaches at Montreat College," Hurt said, "and we prayed in front of his mangled car that he would be spared and would recover.”

Sam Olinger's father, Kevin Kruta, tosses lumber out of the front door of the Olingers' house during a day of demolition April 22.

Hurt learned that the Olingers, who had moved to the Black Mountain only months before the crash, had recently purchased a home nearby. He began to think of how he could offer his services to help them. Their house would need "significant retrofitting" to become wheelchair-accessible, Hurt knew.

"I strongly believed that God would in some way redeem this tragedy, and I knew I wanted to be a part of that if I could,” he said.

Hurt called the college and offered to design the renovation. He was connected with Shoaf. Shoaf, who works for facilities services provider Aramark Corp., knew Olinger, as did his staff.  "Everybody wanted to help," he said.

Hurt’s design focuses on widening the halls of the ranch-style home, converting a bedroom adjacent to the master bedroom into a wheelchair-accessible master bathroom and turning the carport into a bedroom for the Olinger’s young daughter.

Black Mountain firefighter and EMT Joseph Snyder heard the impact from inside of the dispatch room, where he was after coming in for training. He happened to be at the hospital the following day and met the Olingers. He was impressed by Britten's "awesome family." Snyder offered to pour the concrete for a new driveway and sidewalk that would connect to the back deck for the Olingers.

"The community support has been awesome," said Snyder, a Swannanoa Valley native. "I went to Whatever Rents to try to get a Bobcat to use for the project and they offered use of one free of charge. Carolina Ready Mix (in Swannanoa) offered concrete and skilled finishing labor for the job too."

Eddie Colley's real estate office overlooks State Street-Montreat Road intersection. Broker-in-charge for Keller Williams Black Mountain, Colley was eager to get involved. On March 10 he met Olinger's wife Sam and her father, Kevin Kruta, at a fundraiser for the Olingers at Lookout Brewing Co.

Colley told them about Keller William's "Red Day," an annual event in which Keller Williams staff spend the day doing charitable work in their communities. Colley is organizing the May 11 event in Black Mountain and told them he would have his volunteers work on the Olinger house.

Getting in touch with Hurt and Shoaf, Colley said his team would build a deck behind the Olinger home that will allow Britten to get out into the backyard, where he can play with his daughter.

Colley brought his family to the Olinger home April 22 to help Shoaf, Hurt and Kruta complete the demolition phase of the remodel.

“I give a lot of props to Mike (Shoaf),” Colley said. “He has spearheaded this thing in such a way where we’re able to get a lot done in a short period of time.”

Volunteers are renovating the Olinger home so that Britten Olinger can roll his wheelchair throughout when the family returns from the Shepherd Center in Atlanta.

What would help, Shoaf said, is contributions from the community.

“We really need to circulate a list, much like a wedding registry,” he said of the materials needed to complete the project. “That way we can get this done in the easiest, most efficient way possible.”

A streamlined approach is crucial to the success of the project, according to Hurt.

“The whole thing is kind of a stretch,” he said. “We’re looking to pull off a pretty significant renovation in two months using people who are doing this on a volunteer basis.”

Want to help? Below is a list of items needed for the renovation of the Olinger family's home in Black Mountain, contact Mike Shoaf ( to arrange donations: 

100 pieces of pressure treated lumber - 2x4x10 - $400

20 pieces of pressure treated lumber - 2x6x10 - $150

20 pieces of pressure treated lumber - 2x8x12 - $240

8 pieces - 3/4" Advantec subfloor sheets - $250

20 pieces - Sheetrock 4x8x1/2 - $220

30 pieces - 1x6x12 baseboard/trim - $500

30 pieces - 1x4x16 trim - $330

Handicapped-accessible vanity, six-foot with drawer bank - $1,600

Toilet - $150

Handicapped-accessible shower fixtures - $200

HVAC Unit (3-ton heat pump w/ backup gas furnace)  and supplies, including labor to install - $7,500

1 Set of six-foot exterior French doors $2,650

1 - 36-inch exterior French door (right hand inside swing) - $1,350

2 vinyl windows to match existing - $400

Sill flashing, door flashing and Tyvek - $250

Siding - $320

Paint - $500

Nails and screws - $200

Wood flooring - $2,100

Ceramic tile for baths, including labor to install - $2,500

8 pieces of pressure treated lumber - 4x4x16 - $190

50 pieces of pressure treated lumber - 2x10X16 - $1,350

80 pieces of pressure treated lumber - 5/4x16 pine decking - $1,440

6 pieces of pressure treated lumber - 2x6x16 - $160

24 pieces of pressure treated lumber - 1x4x16 - $250

300 pieces of pressure treated lumber - 2x2 railing stiles - $180

Galvanized carriage bolts, washers, and nuts - $375

Deck screws - $120 

Joist Hangars - $130

1.5 cubic yards of gravel - $100

Electrical supplies, including fixtures and wiring - $4,000

Tankless water heater - $2,500

Propane tank - 500-gallon capacity - $2,500