We, Mountain Projects: Dayton Hensley

Few people have a longer relationship with Mountain Projects than Dayton Hensley.

Hensley, 59, suffered physical abuse as a child and has a learning disability as a result. He got his first job through Mountain Projects at age 14, sweeping up at Camp Lab School in Cullowhee, and later at the Department of Social Services in Sylva. Much later, the organization stepped into his life again.

Last year Dayton was in the midst of remodeling his trailer home when he fell from a high ladder and suffered serious injuries.

With winter setting in, his home was unlivable.

His sister pointed him toward Mountain Projects, and a phone call later Vivian Bumgarner and () came to the rescue. They realized that rehabbing Dayton’s existing home was an impractical solution, so they quickly raised funds, found donors and replaced Dayton’s trailer.

“It was like a dream come true,” Dayton says. “They all fell in together and fixed me right up. They’re super. They all came in here and took down my old trailer and worked with Rocky Branch Church to take up donations. And they let me stay in a motel while they were doing the work.”

Now Dayton’s home, situated on pretty family land on a knoll along Hyatt Creek, is snug and tidy.

”In my old trailer nothing worked,” he says. “Why, I had to go outside to wash the dishes.”

Now he has two sources of heat, plenty of insulation, and plumbing that works, too.

“I believe the heat pump is worth more than the trailer,” he jokes.

Hensley was employed in manufacturing most of his adult life, with long stints at Heritage Quilts in Sylva and Cashiers Plastics locations in Cashiers and Waynesville. But many of those jobs are leaving the area, and that puts people like Dayton in a pinch.

“Back then, those were the types of jobs for people with learning disabilities like me,” Dayton says. “Now they want a high school degree. It’s hard to find good, inside work.”

”I’m one of those types of guys that couldn’t get an education,” he says. “I wanted one, and I wanted it bad, but some people have it and some people don’t, when it comes to that kind of thing.”

“Mountain Projects is a good thing for people like me, who don’t have an easy time finding jobs.”