Levi Jenkins didn’t sleep well on Monday night. Like a young child on the night before Christmas, he said he paced his Graves Avenue home on Battle Creek’s northwest side, eagerly awaiting the big reveal ahead of him.
Jenkins and his wife, Teresa, were given a house Tuesday by the Calhoun County Land Bank Authority and its chair, county Treasurer Christine Schauer. The gift effectively ends a two-year battle by the Vietnam War veteran and former police officer to remain in the home after it went through tax foreclosure under a previous owner.
Jenkins, 72, was presented the deed to the home in exchange for $1 Tuesday in a front-yard ceremony with Schauer; Krista Trout-Edwards, executive director of the land bank; Battle Creek City Commissioner Lynn Ward Gray, who sits on the land bank’s board; and representatives from Legal Services of South Central Michigan.
“It was like waiting on Santa Claus and I was just all tense and I couldn’t sleep,” Jenkins said. “This morning at 4 o’clock, I had painted the woodwork in there because it was looking dirty to me. I did several things — cleaned the carpet. I was looking forward to this because I’ve been fighting ever since February of last year.”
Jenkins had been in the process of purchasing the two-bedroom home under a land contract, according to the land bank. However, property taxes on the home went unpaid under the previous owner, leading it to go through tax foreclosure. Jenkins went through a lengthy legal process beginning in February 2014 with the former property owner.
Schauer foreclosed on the property in April. She said Jenkins, working with Legal Services, approached her shortly thereafter inquiring if they would be able to save the house for him.
The land bank, through a right of first refusal before it was to be auctioned, purchased the property and held it — and paid its delinquent property taxes — while the process was being worked out with Jenkins. For Jenkins, who is disabled, it was decided this was “an appropriate gift,” Schauer said.
“We’ve come to this conclusion that we wanted to give this house to Mr. Jenkins and have him use his resources to do some needed repairs and fix it up,” she said.
The 1,015-square-foot home was built in 1920, according to city records. It has two bedrooms, one full bathroom and is a stone’s throw from Northwestern Middle School. The yard is small, but Jenkins has made it his own with a bird feeder shaped like an old general store, a small holiday-themed plastic tree and decorative fence surrounding the yard.
Jenkins intends to renovate the home in the spring. He said he wants to add decks to the front and back porches, build a “proper deck” on the side of the property and put a garage on the empty lot next to the home.
Once that’s completed, he said he’ll be ready to entertain guests.
“I’m gonna throw a big barbecue this summer,” he shouted to those at Tuesday’s ceremony. “Everybody is invited!”
Contact Dillon Davis at 269-966-0698 or firstname.lastname@example.org.