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Angels among us

Jackie Helvey

For anyone who thinks there are no such things as angels, I beg to differ. They are all around us, walking among us. I know this for a fact.

I was in a meeting with client/friend Mike Humphreys, a local realtor. I was complaining how difficult it had become for me to maneuver the exterior steps to my basement where my washer and dryer were; wet leaves or snow make it even more treacherous. I have tumbled down those steps before, so I’ve learned to use caution with them. Osteoarthritis in my right hip compounds the problem, making it difficult for me to walk without pain.

Mike’s eyes lit up. “You know,” he said, “I belong to a group of local realtors who each year selects someone who needs work done to their house and we do the work for them. Would you mind if I nominated you?”

“That would be great!” I responded.

A few months later, Mike sent me paperwork and the process began.

I received an email from Jo Ellen Munsee, a Chapel Hill realtor and the Fix-A-Home project coordinator, asking if they could come and look at my house. A group of strangers, the Greater Chapel Hill Association of Realtors Fix-A-Home Committee, arrived at my house for a tour.

Over the past couple of years, both of my daughters have moved home due to the downturn in the economy. With three households crammed into my house, it looked more like a storage shed than a home.

When it got down to the final three nominees, I felt odd about being in the running. As a small-business owner, I feel fortunate to still be in business. I’m not rich, as far as money goes, but I do manage to keep my bills paid. I expressed this to Jo Ellen – that I work for a living and am not destitute, and that there were probably other folks who needed it more. I asked to be taken out of the running.

She replied, “What goes around, comes around. Maybe this is your turn to receive.”

My friend Valarie Schwartz came by with her truck and we filled the back with bags of blankets and various other items I had stowed in my bathroom closet, where they were considering putting the washer and dryer. We took the bags to the PTA Thrift Shop. Val spotted a lace tablecloth through the plastic.

“Oh,” she said, “that looks nice.”

“Don’t even open the bag,” I advised her. This was purge time.

The Fix-A-Home Committee had no way of knowing the can of worms they were opening up. The home inspector found pages of problems. Built in 1955, plumbing and electrical issues had to be addressed before laundry hook-ups could be done, the backyard was overgrown, the roof had soft spots that needed to be fixed – to name just a few of the issues.

After assessing these issues, the group decided to move forward. This was not the two-day project they anticipated; it took months. Local-area businesses donated goods and skills to get it all done.

I was blown away, not only by the fact that all of these strangers were willing to help me, but by the kindness they showed during the process. Everyone showed up on time, with smiles on their faces.

Chuck Morton, a local realtor and friend who had recently hired me to design his website, showed up at my door one day.

“I’m here to help the plumber,” he said. He also came back to help with the two-day final effort.

Jo Ellen and her husband, Bill Munsee, were primary players, coordinating everything and doing tons of work themselves. Interior designer Caroline Shillito showed me swatches, helped me make selections and met with the various providers. Alex Millager spent days building a beautiful brick walkway. No one ever made me feel inconvenienced by the process; in fact, quite the opposite.

The Fix-A-Home Committee is Christine Barnett, Brent Chambers, Terry Crook, Chris Guffey, Anne Hoole, Bill and Jo Ellen Munsee, Tara O’Donnell, Caroline Shillito and Betty Thompson.
Business contributions included Bagwell, Holt, Smith, Jones & Crowson; Ferguson; Fonville Morisey-Chapel Hill; Frazee Carpets; Fred Herndon Home Inspections; Garner Specialty Finishes; Gutter Solutions; Herndon Construction; Lawton Electric; N.C. Green Plumbing; PODS; Rice’s Glass; Rubin’s Bobcat Services; Sherwin Williams; The Home Team; Triangle Electrical Services; Two Men & a Truck; Well Grounded Landscape; Design and Build; Wood Done Right; and Yellow Dot Heating and Air Conditioning.

Volunteers included Elizabeth Anderson, Karen Apperson, Christine Barnett, Scott Barnes, Sam Brooks, Brett Bushnell, Brent Chambers, Chris Copley, Terry Crook, Janice Durham, Debbie Earp, Diana Eastwood, Kim Elliott, Mairead Garvey, Melanie Girard, Chris Guffey, Colleen Hall, Anne Hoole, Mike Humphreys, Mary Lisowsky, Chad Lloyd, Tom Mabrey, Leslie Mansfield, Andy Millager, Sue Millager, Becky Morris, Chuck Morton, Robin Mullis, Bill Munsee, Jo Ellen Munsee, Karen O’Dwyer, Jay Parker, Rachel Price, Alexis Rudolph, Caroline Shillito, Jennifer Stenner, Andrew Stults, Jackie Tanner, Betty Thompson, Larry Tollen, Mari Trosclair, Terri Turner, Maggie Tunstall, Bill Whitmore, Tom Wiltberger and Kathy Yusiewicz.

They have made a huge difference in my quality of life by fixing my home, and for that I am forever grateful.

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