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Help Sylvia Have a Safe & Healthy Home

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Meet Sylvia.

She is a hometown Bloomington girl who has lived a life full of hard knocks for nearly 70 years. Significant health issues, financial woes, housing challenges, marital abuse, and a very young teen pregnancy left her physically disabled and unable to work her entire life.

John and I met Sylvia while delivering Meals on Wheels. She would always come out to meet us to get her meals, friendly and grateful for the assistance. About a year ago, Sylvia shared that her live-in son had died of complications from many health issues, and she was now very sad and living alone.

Forward to a bitterly cold stretch last November on our Meals on Wheels delivery, when I engaged Sylvia in our usual brief chit-chat. I told her I hoped she was staying warm, and she shrugged her shoulders, hesitated, and slowly said she was doing OK. Of course, I continued to ask questions, only to find out that her furnace wasn’t working, and she had no money to get it checked or fixed. Despite all the layers of clothes she was wearing and the “dog and cat heat” her pets provided, she was cold.

I started making phone calls to get her furnace checked, and fortunately, Truesdel Heating and Cooling out of Spencer was able to check it out quickly and offered to replace her furnace at no cost! The technician that worked with Sylvia donated his time to install the unit, so she now had heat!! Yay!

More questions were asked, and more problems were identified. Sylvia had a leaky roof, only barely warm water, plumbing leaks, intermittent or non-working electricity in most of her outlets and light fixtures, rotting floors, and a mouse infestation… for starters!

Miraculously, I was able to get her homeowner’s insurance to pay for replacing her roof since the leaks started with a tree branch that fell on her roof about a year ago. My church, Sherwood Oaks Christian Church, was able to help with Sylvia’s $1000 deductible and the cost to replace all the decking. We are so grateful for that! Now, Sylvia was at least warm and dry!

I found out about HAND (Housing and Neighborhood Development) offering an Emergency Home Repair Program, and we were able to submit her application on December 1, 2021. Unfortunately, they are limited to less than $8000 for her project, so their focus is on fixing her electrical issues, replacing rotted flooring, fixing the plumbing leaks, repairing drywall, and replacing readily accessible insulation. It has been a SLOW process working with HAND, so we are only just now getting contractors out to look at her project and give estimates if interested. I strongly doubt $8000 will cover the bill.

When we first were invited into Sylvia’s home, John and I stood in disbelief that anyone should have to live like that! She apologized for the state of her home, embarrassed, and I told her she didn’t have to live like that. I gave her a long hug while she cried on my shoulder.
She shared how her son that had lived with her was a hoarder. Any time she would try to get rid of something, he would get very upset, and she couldn’t stand for him to be so distraught. She finally gave up the fight, letting him have his way. Every surface was piled high to the ceiling with stuff (even the bathtub). Only after he passed away, did she begin to slowly uncover her home again. Two full-size dumpsters later, she realizes the impact his hoarding had on the home. She didn’t even know the roof leaked until she cleared away the clutter that touched the ceilings. So discouraged, she lost all hope.

I want to make it very clear that Sylvia has NEVER asked for anything! Only by her accepting offered assistance are we slowly making some headway. She has done all that she can physically do to help, and she told us recently that she is hopeful again of a better life.

I am asking you to consider helping Sylvia’s cause. She has needs beyond the scope of anything that HAND or the Community Action Program can provide. All her kitchen cabinets and bath vanities are falling apart. The mice have nested in her mattress and box spring, and gnawed holes in her dresser, kitchen pantry and walls. She would buy old purses to put her underwear in, and hang on the wall so the mice couldn’t get to them. We bought her a filing cabinet to use as a chest of drawers to keep the mice out. She uses old microwaves to store her food. She would have mice in her slippers every morning, and the mouse poop would poke her legs when she rolled over in bed. No one should live like this!

Sylvia is a huge animal lover, but we finally convinced her to let us use bait boxes to tackle the mouse infestation. It has made a remarkable improvement, but they are still munching away on that bait. She has used about 100 bait blocks so far, and each block kills up to 12 mice. You do the math….YIKES!

These are things she still needs to have a safe, healthy, and more energy-efficient home:
-Replace all kitchen base cabinets, counters, pantry and 3 or 4 wall cabinets
-Replace both bathroom vanities and faucets
-Replace all light fixtures with energy-efficient fixtures
-Replace her mattress and box spring, and likely bedroom furniture
-Fix air conditioner unit (hasn’t worked for almost 20 years)
-Replace water heater (currently only lukewarm water)
-Replace back door that has lost all the insulation inside
-Replace flush mechanisms in both toilets
-Replace the stove (only two burners currently working)
-Provide some basic living room furniture (currently using outdoor chairs)

I’m sure the list will grow, but these basic needs will improve her quality of life. If you find it in your heart to donate, rest assured that I will use these funds responsibly on Sylvia’s behalf. I know she will be so grateful and humbled by those willing to help a total stranger. If you can’t help financially, I understand and ask for your prayers and good vibes for my newfound friend, Sylvia.

Thanks for caring enough to read this to the end….




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Barb House-Fox
Bloomington, IN

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