Betty moved to the Villa Park neighborhood 25 years ago with her three sons after her husband passed away. She lives now with her youngest son but they do not have enough money or energy to maintain the house, especially since her middle son died. “I lost my son about a year and a half ago. It is still hard,” said Betty. While they mourned the house fell into disarray and it became overwhelming. “The doctors told me there was no hope. After that I did not care. I just went in my house, went out, went in my house, went out. I just did not care about the house and things started piling up.” The yard was filled with debris when Extreme Community Makeover worked at the house, filling several truckloads for the dumpster. In addition to a yard full of trash the house has several broken windows and a leaky roof. “At one time I was thinking ‘I am just going to board up everything and just walk out’ but thank God for you and for the church. It makes me feel good that there are people who care.”
As well as removing the things that had collected in her yard ECM was able to compete some yard work she was not able to. “ECM is doing a lot of work for us here. They trimmed the trees, unwanted things, pulling weeds, they are going to cut the weeds down. That big bush over there, that was a big eyesore. I could not have done that myself because you have to have a ladder to cut the top off and sometimes I just do not have the energy. This is a lot of help today though.” Betty and her son were also able to donate several children’s bikes they had to a local charity. A lot of things ECM helped remove were things her son would bring home that she had been struggling to get rid of. “People keep saying ‘let your son go, let him be in peace’ and everything, but he was close to me.”
One thing of her son’s that she is not able to get rid of is his cat Smokie. He would often bring home things he collected throughout the day and one day a cat followed him home. “Somehow I think if it was not for my animals I would not have made it. Smokie’s the one that kept me going. She’s a nuisance, but she kept me going.” She said the cat helps her remember her son, and it is one thing of his that she knows she will not get rid of.
While she has been mourning she has made several community connections that helped her keep going. “I am a janitor, or they call it a custodian. I clean classrooms, clean bathrooms for the kids for next day. If it was not for the school I do not know what I would have done. They kept me motivated to get up in the morning and go.” She also got connected with a local church after she had her son’s services there. They provide her with food and transportation and are helping her to get her roof fixed soon. The church also connected her to ECM. A final connection ECM hopes will bring Betty some joy is a new tree from Denver Digs. She wants to plant it in place of a stump her son used to sit on and build a new shrine to him there.
-Anja, Intern & Communications Team